The Pittsburgh Steelers took their big swing at the quarterback position in 2022, just after Ben Roethlisberger retired, in what was regarded as one of the weakest quarterback classes in decades. That they took the first quarterback off the board 20th overall, and that another wasn’t taken until the third round, speaks volumes about how the league viewed the class.
With as many as four quarterbacks expected to go inside the top 10 in this year’s draft class, it has sparked debate about where the Steelers’ 2022 pick, Kenny Pickett, would fit among the latest quarterback crop. For former NFL quarterback turned analyst Rich Gannon a former league MVP, the answer is an easy one.
“If it were me, I’d take him in front of everybody”, he said on Monday on The SiriusXM Blitz with Bruce Murray & Rich Gannon. “I just really like him”.
Naturally, he also pointed out that the top names in this class have their question marks. On Bryce Young, he said, “There’s got to be concerns that he can play a 17-game season”. Regarding C.J. Stroud, he talked about “The hesitance to use his legs and create some offense. I think sometimes throwing the ball on the move is a challenge for him”.
While he didn’t elaborate beyond that, it’s also worth discussing at least Anthony Richardson, whom many now think could go third overall behind Young and Stroud at one and two. He has had a meteoric rise during the pre-draft process. He has a career 54.7 completion percentage, for example, with a 24-to-16 touchdown-to-interception ratio. But he rushed for 654 yards and nine touchdowns last season.
“I think in hindsight when you look at what the Steelers did in the draft with Kenny Pickett and where they took him with that 20th overall pick, that was great value”, Gannon said. “And trust me, they were looking ahead to this year’s draft a year ago and they felt really good about Kenny Pickett at 20”.
While Richardson might not have been on the crosshairs a year ago, Young and Stroud certainly were. The Steelers knew they would be coming out this year. Theoretically, they could have chosen to “tank” the season to try to land one of them, though even that is never guaranteed.
But when they had the chance to draft Pickett—or any other quarterback, remember—at 20, they didn’t hesitate. Yet for Gannon, it’s not even about value, as in Pickett at 20 versus Young at 1 or 2. He believes Pickett would be the better pick if they were all in the same class.
As a rookie, Pickett posted a 7-5 record, though he hardly played in one of the losses. He went 245-for-389 passing (63 percent) for 2,404 yards, though he only threw seven total touchdowns against nine interceptions. Only one interception came in his final eight games, however, whereas four of his seven passing touchdowns came in his final five games.
There is still a lot of meat left on the bone for Pickett, something that Gannon also talked about earlier in the segment. But he was clearly on an upward trajectory as the season progressed—in terms of his comfort and understanding of the offense even more so than his numbers indicate.