On NFL Network’s Good Morning Football Tuesday, the team of analysts each named one wild-card pick at quarterback who could join the elite quarterback conversation in 2023. Kyle Brandt tabbed Kenny Pickett.
“I’m developing a sort of football crush on Kenny Pickett,” Brandt said. “He threw one interception in his last eight games, he had two game-winning touchdown passes in the final minute of the fourth quarter, the first rookie in history to do it. I like Kenny Pickett.”
Brandt pointed out that there hasn’t been a lot of buzz around Pickett. “If you Google Kenny Pickett right now, there’s just nothing.” He said that the low-key nature of Pickett’s offseason is “workmanlike” and “so Pittsburgh.”
But it’s not as if there hasn’t been any buzz on Pickett because he hasn’t been working out. It’s been quite the opposite, as Pickett worked out with teammates in Florida and has been around the facility training and working out as he prepares for Year 2. At this point last year, Pickett was training and getting ready for the draft, meaning he didn’t even have a playbook or scheme for which to prepare. Even after getting drafted by the Steelers, he was thrust into a three-way quarterback competition and never truly was able to prepare as the starter during the offseason.
That has all changed. Pickett knows the scheme, knows his weapons and knows what he’s capable of in the NFL. He showed he can win in the second half of the 2022 season, leading the Steelers to six wins after their bye week and showing off his clutch gene with last-minute wins over the Raiders and Ravens late in the season, victories that kept Pittsburgh’s flickering playoff hopes alive. I think it’s more or less inevitable that Pickett takes a leap next season.
The question is how big that leap is. For the purpose of the segment, Brandt named Pickett as someone who could be considered elite. It’s no small feat for a second-year quarterback to jump into that category, and I wouldn’t necessarily bank on Pickett reaching that level. But there’s nothing stopping him from becoming a top-12 or top-10 quarterback next season. The one thing holding him back could be Matt Canada’s scheme, and Pickett did struggle with interceptions during the early part of his tenure as a starter. We never really got to see Pickett unleash the deep ball last season. If he’s again limited in that part of the game, he won’t take a substantial leap.
If the offense opens up a little bit and Pickett has more freedom (after all, this was a team that didn’t even have hot routes last season), then I think we’ll see the sort of leap that makes the Steelers feel very comfortable with Pickett as their quarterback of the future. That’s what I’m banking on happening because I do think that Pickett has the traits and the tools to become a really solid NFL quarterback. If he’s once again hindered by the offense or his turnover woes come back, the prospect of Pickett may not be as exciting as it could be.
Ultimately, I think Pickett will be better next year and the Steelers will be better. We could see progression from the offense across the board, with George Pickens entering his second season, Diontae Johnson hungry to improve from a letdown of a 2022 season, and Pat Freiermuth continuing to show improvement. And that’s not even mentioning the additions made to the offensive line with Isaac Seumalo coming in to likely replace Kevin Dotson at left guard and Nate Herbig a solid depth addition. With Pickett under center, I think Pittsburgh’s offense could certainly be a lot better than people think next year.