Steelers Vs Saints X-Factor: Kenny Pickett

As we’ll do every week to get you ready for the upcoming game, our X-Factor of the week. Sometimes it’s a player, unit, concept, or scheme. Here’s our X-Factor for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.

X-FACTOR: Kenny Pickett

For as obviously critical as it is, we haven’t listed Pickett as an X-Factor this season. That changes today. Though the Pittsburgh Steelers must take some of the pressure off him, odds are they won’t, and Pickett will have to make plays to pull this offense to victory. In the three games Pickett has started and completed, he’s had to dropback a lot. Here are those numbers:

Pickett Dropbacks (Attempts + Sacks + Scrambles)

Week 5 – 56
Week 7 – 49
Week 8 – 50

Not a good way to build up a rookie quarterback. Ideally, that number is closer to 30 but the reality is, the Steelers’ run game, even if better this weekend, will still struggle and Pickett will be required to carry a heavy load.

But Pickett’s own play isn’t the only thing to focus on. If there’s one guy on that Saints’ that scares me, it’s the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu. A smart, versatile veteran like him against a rookie in Pickett? Pickett is going to have to know where #32 is at before and after each snap of the football. The Saints use him in a Robber/Lurk role and count on them spinning and rotating coverages to try to move him on the snap of the football. If Pickett doesn’t know where Mathieu is at on the snap, he sure will after it. Mathieu is the type of guy who has made a living reading the quarterback’s eyes and making plays. He might do it again this weekend.

The Saints are dead last in turnover differential at a whopping -17. They’ve lost games because they’ve lost the turnover battle. If Pittsburgh can take care of the football this weekend, they should win. Everything else is working in their favor. Playing at home, coming off a bye while the Saints are on a short week and dealing with injuries. But Mathieu has both of the Saints’ interceptions this year and if he picks up a third after this Sunday, the Steelers may come out of this game with their worst start to a season since 1988.

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