2023 NFL Draft

Kenny Pickett Talks Adjusting To The Speed Of The NFL: ‘It Just Takes Time’

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Kenny Pickett recently spoke to Pro Football Focus’s Trevor Sikkema on a interview that is scheduled to drop on February 15. However, part of the interview was shared on Twitter with Pickett specifically talking to Sikkema about his rookie season and how he had to adjust to the speed of the NFL game compared to college as a rookie getting thrown into the fire.

“Obviously how hot the pocket is in the NFL,” Pickett said to Sikkema on video from Dave Sulfaro’s Twitter page. “Out of 10 throws, you’re probably throwing in rhythm three times out of the 10. You know, the pocket’s always hot with how great these pass rushers are. The speed of the game and I think that’s more mentally, right? Like I’m learning a new system. There’s also a lot more defenses that I’m not used to seeing. So, on top of learning a new system, it’s learning some new coverages, new fronts, new structures, so that makes everything speed up. You know, guys are bigger, faster, stronger.”

Pickett had to adjust to the speed of the NFL game early out the gate, being thrust into action at halftime Week 4 against the New York Jets with Mitch Trubisky was bench as Mike Tomlin was hoping that Pickett could give the offense a spark. Pickett managed to do just that, rushing for two TDs while displaying plenty of poise in the pocket, dropping big throws to George Pickens and Pat Freiermuth, one of which he got drilled by DL Quinnen Williams as he released the ball.

Still, Pickett had his bumps in his first outing in the regular season, throwing three INTs as the Steelers failed to protect the football and stop the opposing Jets’ running game, losing the contest. In fact, Pickett finished his rookie campaign with more INTs (9) than TD passes (7), showing notable inexperience regarding the speed of the NFL game as he transitioned from college in 2022. Defenders were able to bait him into bad throws, forcing him to make decision on the run literally and figuratively as the pass rush and coverage he saw on a weekly basis was better than anything he had previously seen during his time at Pitt.

Still, Pickett managed to go 7-5 as a starter and led impressive game-winning drives in back-to-back game against the Raiders and Ravens to end the season, helping Pittsburgh finish 6-2 down the stretch and nearly make the playoffs as the final seed in the AFC. According to Pickett, he was never worried about his rough interdiction to the NFL. He just needed time and reps to adjust to the speed of the game and get comfortable in the system.

“Once you get the feel for it though, it just takes time,” Pickett said. “It takes reps. Like, as much as everyone wants you go in there and light it up, everyone wants to do that, but sometimes it just takes a little bit of time to play and get your feet under you and you get a feel for it. And then you kind of see those jumps and improvements week by week.”

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