Steelers’ Offense Improving Its Quarterback/Receiver Chemistry

Quarterback-Wide Receiver chemistry is super important and takes some time to build. Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett was thrusted into the Steelers starting lineup at halftime in Week Four when former starter Mitch Trubisky was hooked by head coach Mike Tomlin. 

Pickett was thrown into the fire despite not practicing with the starters during the season and getting limited time with them during training camp. This led to him not having much chemistry with his receivers and contributed to some interceptions (see Miami Dolphins game) and incompletion due to not being on the same page as his receivers. 

However, Pickett has now had the starting job in Pittsburgh for almost two months and in real time we are seeing his chemistry with receivers grow, specifically fellow rookie George Pickens. Pickett addressed this today in his weekly press conference shared via

“It shows up in the big time moments, right” Pickett said. “I think it’s knowing he [Pickens] knows where I need him to be, I know he’s gonna get to where he needs to be and then I meet him there with a ball.”

One specific moment like this was the Steelers two-point conversion in the fourth quarter where Pickett scrambled out right and fired a dart into the back of the end zone right into the sure hands of Pickens who was waiting there. 

Pickett also told the reporters about how with the more reps he’s received he has been able to throw his receivers open due to the chemistry he has built with them. 

“Those big time moments, those timing routes where sometimes you’re throwing guys open and they may not see, they may not look open to the naked eye, but, you know, with the reps and the confidence that I have that they’re gonna be where I want them to be, and they know that they’re gonna get the football. It kind of comes together that way.” 

Something that Pickett is starting to do is throw to guys before they get out of their break due to him knowing where they are supposed to be. While Pickett knew the playbook, it takes time to trust that guys would be following the playbook to a tee and be open. After more and more reps he is finally gaining that chemistry with guys like Pickens, Diontae Johnson, and Pat Freiermuth where he will throw the ball to them before their route is even completed, trusting them to get to the right spot and catch the pass.

This is so important for Pickett as he tries to make the next step to being a good NFL quarterback as NFL players are so fast you cannot wait for a receiver to actually look open or a defender will get into the play and make sure the receiver is not open any more. The windows are so small that the ball has to get there quickly, especially for a player like Pickett who doesn’t have a cannon of an arm. 

Pickett being able to start building this chemistry with his receivers and learning so quickly bodes really well for his future. While he rightfully received criticism after his first few performances he is now deservedly receiving praise for how he has played these past couple of games. 

With the Steelers playoff hopes on life support, what is most important the rest of this season is for Pickett to continue to build chemistry with his teammates and to continue to grow as a passer, making more anticipatory throws down the field accurately. 

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