Kenny Pickett finished his rookie season on a strong note, giving the Pittsburgh Steelers’ confidence in him as their starter going forward. But there’s always room for improvement but longtime analyst and tape-watcher Greg Cosell outlined a couple of areas Pickett can improve upon heading into 2023.
Cosell joined 93.7 The Fan’s Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller to critique Pickett’s game.
“The things he needs to work on, and you saw this in college as well, and I think it continued in the league,” Cosell said. “I think there are times he leaves the pocket too early. I think there are times he perceives pressure that’s not there and he abandons the play. And I think that he has to learn to stay there, let it happen.”
It’s a valid analysis and something we pointed out throughout his rookie season. Even on some of his highlight reel plays, those issues popped up. On his game-winning touchdown to Najee Harris to beat the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17, Pickett drifted when he didn’t need to, inviting pressure he had to fend off before hitting Harris for the score.
Frankly, it’s an issue many young and mobile quarterbacks like Pickett experience. Guys who are comfortable using their legs and moving outside of the pocket, an escape hatch that cuts down on reads and focuses more on instincts, and offers the chance to run and make something out of the play. Anyone who has ever played Madden knows how easy it is to start rolling out and trying to run instead of working from the confines of the pocket and the structure of the play.
The good news it’s a correctable issue. With experience, most quarterbacks find more comfort and hang in the pocket. Mason Rudolph had terrible pocket presence his first couple of years and grew out of that and Pickett is ahead of where Rudolph was early in his career.
To be clear, Cosell wasn’t bagging on Pickett. Overall, he told The Fan he likes Pickett’s game and potential, praising his ability to make plays as a rhythmic and timing-based passer.
“He’s going to have to make throws from the pocket within the structure of the offense. I think Pickett has a very good feel for that.”
While Cosell said Pickett doesn’t have a rocket arm, he said it’s good enough to work in the NFL. Overall, he couched his criticism as normal rookie critiquing. No player is perfect after just one year in the NFL and it’s good to say out loud the areas he has to work on so we can watch it next year. And if it gets better, then we can compare and contrast and note his progress. That’s the name of the game. Progress, getting better, and Pickett’s shown he can make strides.