Pittsburgh Steelers rookie QB Kenny Pickett has had one up-and-down introductory season to the NFL.
Pickett came into Pittsburgh’s Week 4 matchup with the New York Jets in the second half and provided a spark by running for two TDs but managed to throw three INTs. The turnover bug continued to follow Pickett through his first few NFL starts as he eight INTs in his first five NFL games. Pickett currently boasts the worst TD-to-INT ratio in the league throwing only three TD passes in eight games compared to eight interceptions.
However, Pickett has been smarter with the football as of late, doing a better job of avoiding putting the ball in harm’s way and by making better decisions with his passes. In fact, Pickett has thrown zero INTs the last three games and has zero turnovers overall, being one of only three QBs in the NFL to accomplish that feat during that time.
WR Diontae Johnson was asked about Pickett’s improvement of taking care of the football, to which he commended the young QB’s growth and awareness to make sound decisions in order to sustain drives rather than kill them with turnovers.
“Yeah, for sure,” Johnson answered regarding Pickett’s improvement on video from 93.7 The Fan’s Josh Rowntree’s Twitter page. “He’s definitely just more aware. Just playing safe and just to not do too much out there and whatnot. Just be himself out there and just let the offense flow, and when he’s out there playing like that, we all play well. When he’s not forcing, he’s playing comfortable. So, just by him doing that, he going to continue to do that and we’re going to continue to make plays for him down the field.”
This year has become a year of evaluation for young player on the roster including Pickett as the Steelers look to find out whether they have their franchise QB of the future with him at the helm. While it remains too early to decide if Pickett is this team’s long-term solution to replacing Ben Roethlisberger who captained the offense for the past 18 years, Pickett has shown some flashes in recent weeks like his leadership, calm demeanor under pressure, mobility, and ball placement. His accuracy has improved as well as his decision making as referenced above, being a player that can manage the game and take what the defense gives him without making a costly decision.
You want to see your franchise QB be more than a game manager, especially in today’s league with the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen ruling the AFC with their impressive physical traits. While Pickett may never possess what those passers have in terms of arm strength and a variety of throwing angles from different platforms, he can still become a successful NFL quarterback that can lead his team to playoff contention based on the tools he has in his toolbox. For now, however, the incremental improvements like ball security and decision making cannot be ignored which Pickett is starting to show.