With the Steelers’ 2023 offseason underway following a disappointing season that came up just short of reaching the playoffs, it’s time to begin reloading, through the free agency process, through the draft, and perhaps even through trade.
This is now a young team on the offensive side of the ball, though one getting older on defense, and both sides could stand to be supplemented robustly, including in the trenches—either one. Changes have been made to the coaching staff, even if not all of the desired ones, as the roster continues to renew with the weeks ticking by.
These sorts of uncertainties are what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
Topic Statement: Kenny Pickett will put up top-10 passing statistics in 2023.
Explanation: Right or wrong, quarterbacks are just as often or more judged by their passing numbers as they are by their ability to win games. Kenny Pickett’s numbers as a rookie were quite underwhelming, yet to many he passed the ‘eye’ test.
Pickett is a player who took some time to acclimate at every level of the game, so it’s no great surprise if it would happen on the biggest stage where most players go through it to some degree. And the important part is that he played enough to win games. Would he have put up better ‘traditional’ numbers if they were needed to win more? Perhaps.
And he will this year, because he has the talent, and now he will have the experience, the offense built around him, the rapport of his teammates, and so on. He talked multiple times a year ago about how he had to steal reps throughout the year because he didn’t get in much work with the starters.
Most players make their biggest jump from year one to year two and Pickett should be no exception. 4000 passing yards would likely be enough to make it into the top 10, along with 25 passing touchdowns, while 66.7 percent is the target for completion percentage.
Pickett had among the worst touchdown rates by a rookie quarterback with 300-plus pass attempts in NFL history last season. Just seven touchdowns on nearly 400 throws. I don’t know how your math is, but that’s more than 50 pass attempts per attempt that finds the end zone. That’s rough.
Pickett ranked 38th in passing yards per game last season, or 25th among those with 10-plus starts a year ago. His touchdowns per game was worse—much worse. Worse than his backup’s.
The rookie himself admitted that he was struggling to finish drives and get the ball in the end zone. Most other quarterbacks who make the jump to top-10, franchise type of player usually don’t have such significant struggles out of the gate in that area.
And aside from all that, the Steelers are going to be running the ball more this season, with two running backs they’ll be looking to get touches for. So he may not even get enough passing attempts to hit those kinds of numbers.