Sunday’s performance in Week 12 against the Cincinnati Bengals at Acrisure Stadium about perfectly sums up the Kenny Pickett experience through seven games for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In the first half, Pickett showed real signs of taking that next step forward as the franchise quarterback of the Steelers, pushing the football down the field with great success, using his legs to buy time in the pocket and make plays down the field, and overall had a strong command of the offense, which put up a season-high 20 first-half points.
Then, the second half happened.
Pickett and the Steelers offense seemingly never came out of the locker room at halftime, went three-and-out three straight possessions and simply couldn’t keep pace with the Bengals’ dynamic offense, led by star quarterback Joe Burrow. For all the good that Pickett showed in the first half, there was equally as much bad in the second half.
Despite the up and down performance, Pickett moved up one spot in the latest QB Index Wednesday from NFL.com’s Marc Sessler, climbing to No. 30 overall in the rankings, just ahead of the now-benched Davis Mills in Houston and Zach Wilson in New York and right behind New England’s Mac Jones.
Not great company to be in for the rookie.
“My favorite moment from Pickett on Sunday came on a 24-yard scoring shot to George Pickens that saw the rookie passer crushed as he delivered the ball,” Sessler writes regarding Pickett’s ranking in the latest QB Index. “Pickett and Pickens (4/83/1) made music against the Bengals, but the young signal-caller also badly missed his favorite wideout on a few would-be big gains. That’s the Pickett experience: Toughness on display, aggressive — sometimes dangerous — lobs, frustrating misses and a sense of complete unknown around whether he can do this at a higher level.”
Sessler summed up the Pickett experience rather well with that last sentence.
The first-round rookie quarterback has shown serious toughness, aggressiveness and a high compete level. His teammates respond to him in a big way, and he’s never encountered a situation in which he’s not confident and believes in his abilities.
However, he’s had some frustrating misses, like missing Pickens deep on an extended play, and has seen his key trait of accuracy simply disappear for stretches in rather puzzling fashion.
That is the rookie QB experience though, which is something the Steelers bought into when they selected Pickett No. 20 overall, and then inserted him into the lineup at halftime of the Week 4 loss to the New York Jets.
Questions remain about Pickett moving forward regarding his ability to be that franchise guy. Hopefully down the stretch in his rookie season he can find a bit more consistency and start answering some of those questions.