OC Matt Canada spoke to the media on Thursday in his weekly press conference. Canada was asked about several of his players and the improvements he has seen from them this season, including rookie QB Kenny Pickett.
“I think he’s been trending in the right direction since the bye and taking care of the football… doing a good job with that,” Canada said to the media Thursday on video from Chris Adamski’s Twitter page. “Understanding the offense and his role in it… getting the ball in the right places. So, I think he’s continuing to ascend the way we want him to. We just have to hope that keeps going. We have to continue to help him do that with the other ten guys on the field.”
Run the football. Play good defense. Don’t turn the football over. That has been Pittsburgh’s MO since their bye week, going 4-2 during that stretch where the defense has played better overall since the beginning of the season and the running game has found new life thanks to a revitalized Najee Harris, a gelling offensive line, and the rest of the running back room making meaningful contributions when given the opportunity.
Still, Pittsburgh has been able to sustain this success by playing mistake-free football. This is a huge credit to QB Kenny Pickett who threw eight INTs in five appearances prior to the bye week but managed to go four-straight games without a pick or fumble, a historic feat to say the least.
Still, while Pickett has shown strides in terms of taking care of the football and commanding an offense that can move down the field, there still is plenty of work to be done. HC Mike Tomlin was blatantly honest about this when he was asked about Pickett’s progression thus far, stating that he needs to work on all aspects of his game. Tomlin mentioned that he has liked what he’s seen thus far from Pickett, but also acknowledges that he can’t grade him “on a curve” because he is a rookie.
Tomlin is right. While Pickett has shown moments that make you think he can indeed become Pittsburgh’s franchise quarterback, there is a lot of development that still needs to be done. His current stats aren’t all that impressive (1,797 yards, four touchdowns, eight interceptions: three rushing touchdowns). He’s conversion percentage in the red zone needs to continue to improve to turn field goal attempts into TDs and his ability to attack down the field drastically needs to get better, having an adjusted net yards per passing attempt of 5.2, one of the worst in football.
There is no denying that Kenny Pickett has shown positive strides since his first appearance in Week 4 against the Jets like Matt Canada said. That should be the case for any rookie QB who gets more playing time. Now, it’s up to Pickett to show why Pittsburgh made him the first and only QB drafted in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft and take his game to another level in the team’s final three games of the season, helping him build momentum for what we hope to be a breakout sophomore season.