While widely expected that quarterbacks make a jump in performance between their first and second year in the league, it’s far from a guarantee. There’s hope that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett will be able to take a leap during his second year in the league, and former NFL quarterback David Carr believes that he will. Speaking on NFL Total Access on NFL Network earlier today, Carr was bullish about the development Pickett can make going into his second NFL season.
“I think he can make a big leap,” Carr said. “When you look at how he finished the season, it was much better than how he started.”
The key for Pickett during the second half of the season was limiting turnovers. Pickett had eight interceptions in his first five starts but only one in his final eight starts, when the Steelers went 6-2. Limiting turnovers and performing in the clutch, Pickett led back-to-back game-winning drives in Week 16 and Week 17, helping fans see the potential the Steelers saw when they drafted the former Pittsburgh Panther 20th overall.
Carr said he talked to Mike Sullivan, who is Pickett’s quarterback coach and loves what Pickett brings to the team. Carr touched on traits that sets Pickett apart from his peers.
“Everything that you need to do as far as preparation,” Carr said, “but even the physicality, like the athleticism that he brings, he brings a little bit extra than most guys have, as far as pocket quarterbacks.”
A former NFL quarterback, Carr has a unique perspective on what it’s like adjusting to football at the highest level. The first overall pick of the 2002 NFL Draft described the first season as a “blur,” but said heading into his second season, he was more comfortable. As a result, Carr said, the same should hold true for Pickett.
“When I was coming into my second year, I felt so much more comfortable,” Carr said. “That first year is like a blur. Everything’s happening. The draft happens, then you go into OTAs and you’re thrust in a playing situation. You never really have time to breathe.”
Pickett’ rookie season was even more out of sync as he wasn’t the Week 1 starter. While he competed for the job in training camp and the preseason, free-agent addition Mitch Trubisky was named Pittsburgh’s starter, and Trubisky started the team’s first four games of the regular season. Pickett came in during the second half of the team’s Week 4 game against the New York Jets and started every game he was healthy for after that. But it wasn’t as if Pickett went into 2022 expecting to start. Now, with 12 NFL starts under his belt and experience of what the NFL game is like, Pickett can prepare as the starter.
That experience of preparing as the starter and knowing what is needed out of him and what he wants out of everyone else around him his huge. Carr believes Pickett is going to take more chances down the field next season to wide receivers George Pickens and Diontae Johnson. If that’s the case, the Steelers’ offense is going to be a lot better than in 2022. Pickett also got some help, as the team improved its offensive line by adding Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig as free agents.
While the offense improved down the stretch, it was mainly due to a short and quick passing game and the run game. If Pickett gets more comfortable and becomes proficient at airing the ball out a little bit, that’s a whole new element to the offense that can be unlocked. I’m excited to see what Pickett might be able to do in his second year in the league. And I’m with Carr in thinking Pickett might be able to take a pretty substantial leap and hopefully lead the Steelers to a few more wins in 2023.