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Kenny Pickett Likes Steelers Moving Pocket, Using Misdirection

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense is underwhelming, to say the least. The team ranks at or near the bottom of the NFL in nearly every meaningful category, and these struggles are certainly a contributing factor to their 2-6 record. For first-round quarterback Kenny Pickett, his rookie season has been up and down. One area that head coach Mike Tomlin believes Pickett has been successful with is designed roll-outs in misdirection pass plays.

“I think we do a pretty good amount of it,” Pickett said when asked about Tomlin’s praise of his execution on misdirection pass plays in a Wednesday press conference on the team’s website. “I think it’s a good way to move the pocket and not just be kind of a sitting duck where you’re dropping back in the same spot.

“The defense knows that I have some mobility, I can move a little bit. They can’t pin their ears back every single time and think that I’m going to be in the same point of the pocket. So, I think we do a good amount of it. We’ll see what happens in the back half of the season with how we want to use it.”

Quarterback roll-outs are seemingly called every game by offensive coordinator Matt Canada, and appear to be a stable of his offense. Both of the team’s quarterbacks in Pickett and Mitch Trubisky are mobile, giving Canada more of a chance to run said plays than he had with a veteran Ben Roethlisberger last season.

There is some merit to Tomlin and Pickett’s comments, as designed roll outs have been successful for Pickett. According to Sports Information Solutions (SIS), Canada has called 18 designed roll outs for Pickett. In those plays, Pickett completed 12 passes (14 of which were catchable) for 81 yards. While this is not bad production, especially relative to other plays this offense frequently runs, it only yields 6.75 yards per reception.

There is also a downside to Pickett’s use of his mobility. According to Pro Football Focus’ premium stats, Pickett is responsible for 21.3% of pressures, meaning that he runs into them. This ranks 7th in the league among quarterbacks with 23 or more dropbacks.

This metric does not necessarily prevent quarterbacks from being productive, as the quarterbacks with the highest percentages of self-inflicted pressures include Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson and Philadelphia Eagles’ Jalen Hurts. Needless to say, while Pickett is mobile, it is not a part of his game to the extent that it is for the likes of Hurts and Jackson. Notably, Mitch Trubisky ranks second in this metric, as he is responsible for 29.4% of pressures. As such, one has to wonder whether play calls such as designed roll outs contribute to this.

The fact is, this offense must get success anywhere they can find it. If misdirection plays that move the launch point of the pass prove to be more successful, so be it. With a 2-6 record and going into yet another must-win game against the New Orleans Saints, a mere 10-13 points likely won’t do it. The team had a chance to regather in the bye week, and how the offense performs on Sunday will be telling.

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