Five games (four starts) into his career as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, things haven’t gone quite as well as many hoped for rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett.
The Steelers have won just one game — against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — which happened to be a game that Pickett left in the third quarter due to injury. On top of that, the Steelers have scored just 53 points with Pickett under center across roughly 16.5 quarters.
More than half of his throws, according to Pro Football Focus, are in the 0-9 yard window, with another 10% behind the line of scrimmage entirely. After the spark the rookie provided after halftime against the New York Jets, things have fizzled out a bit.
Knowing all that, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Pickett ranks at No. 29 overall in the latest NFL.com QB Index from analyst Marc Sessler, behind the likes of Atlanta’s Marcus Mariota, New England’s Mac Jones, and New York’s Zac Wilson, sitting just ahead of Carolina’s PJ Walker, Tennessee’s Malik Willis and Indianapolis’ Sam Ehlinger.
Not great company to be in overall.
“This version of Pickett has been unable to flip the script on a bland Steelers offense limited by a faulty line and an underwhelming approach from the mind of Matt Canada,” Sessler writes regarding Pickett’s ranking in the latest QB Index ahead of Week 10. “It’s no surprise to see a tossed-into-the-fire rookie throw the ball into danger and struggle to read the field. Pickett’s connection with sensational first-year wideout George Pickens is a starting point. The next two months boil down to seeing what Pickett can grow into before an offseason of possibly sweeping changes in Pittsburgh.”
Things haven’t gone well, that much is clear. Pickett looks like he’s lost some confidence in his ability to make certain throws at the NFL level compared to what he did last season in college. He’s not pushing the football down the field effectively, failing to connect on those types of throws (20+ yards) down the field on a consistent basis.
Add those struggles with the overall issues with the offensive line, a lack of a consistent run game and some of the puzzling concepts from second-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada and it’s understandable why the rookie has struggled early on in his tenure in the black and gold.
The second half of the season will be quite telling for Pickett and the rest of the offense moving forward. Signs of progress and overall life offensively would be a great step in the right direction. It will also serve as a serious audition for Pickett to show he is the guy the Steelers believe he can be moving forward. If not, things could change drastically in the offseason.