Steelers News

Kenny Pickett ‘Throwing The Ball Deeper Better’ With More Velocity, QB Coach Says

For as much talk as there has been about this move or that the Pittsburgh Steelers have made this offseason, the near-term future is ultimately driven by the development and maturation of second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett. If you don’t have a guy who’s good enough under center, you don’t have a prayer of winning anything.

To that end, the 2022 first-round draft pick has already been busy at work getting better for next year. Not only has he already organized private workouts with his teammates, he’s continued his work with his private quarterbacks coach, Tony Racioppi, who has been working with him to break down his rookie season and customize his work to gear it toward what the Steelers want. And what he sees is a better arm as a result.

I think his arm’s gotten stronger”, he told Chris Mack, Colin Dunlap, and Dorin Dickerson on 93.7 The Fan earlier this week, “between the rotational power stuff that the University of Pittsburgh guys gave him, from a weight room standpoint, and from a fundamental standpoint. There’s more velocity on the ball and he’s throwing the ball deeper better, and those were two goals”.

Interestingly enough, a study earlier this year showed that Pickett was actually one of the most accurate deep-ball passers in the league—but it also showed that his average ‘deep’ ball wasn’t very deep. Yet on 40 passes of 21 yards or more in the air, his accuracy percentage of 57.5 was second-best in the league. But he only attempted 12 passes of 31-plus yards, including just two of 41-plus. So there’s room to grow vertically, and that will benefit somebody like George Pickens most of all—and perhaps Calvin Austin III, if he still has his speed. So what went into ramping up his arm?

“Clean up the footwork. Clean up your fundamentals, number one”, he said, discussing what he’s been working on with Pickett. “Number two, let’s throw the route concepts now that they run there, so we can really time up his feet and the route”.

That all-important in-game experience, you know. You’re not throwing on air when the down actually matters. Racioppi said that’s perhaps the most important thing that Pickett went through last season, just seeing what it’s really like, what to expect, and how to adapt.

“If there’s 10 throws, three or four, you really set your feet and throw the ball with no pressure”, he said. “The other six to seven out of those 10, you’re moving. It’s not a clean pocket. The pocket’s hot, so it’s set your feet, throw the curl. Next time it’s drop, move, slide, throw the curl. The next one is, set your feet, guy at your feet, and you’ve got to be able to make the throw”.

Pickett readily admitted last year that he fled the pocket too early, too often, even knocking himself on the game-winning touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in which he flushed out to his left and hit running back Najee Harris for a touchdown.

His arrow was clearly pointing up at the end of last season, but there are a lot of things, big and little, for Pickett to work on in order to continue to get better. I don’t know exactly what his ultimate upside is as a deep passer—he doesn’t have elite arm strength, though it’s far from deficient—but all the same, it’s good to hear it’s something that he’s been working on. Whether or not there have been genuine results, that’s tougher to say, as the source is naturally biased.

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