Entering the 2023 season, Pittsburgh Steelers second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett seems to be in a rather good spot from a leadership and experience standpoint.
A lot of that is a testament to the playing time the former Pitt Panthers star received in 12 games in 2022, taking over as the starting quarterback of the Steelers at halftime of the Week 4 loss against the New York Jets at Acrisure Stadium.
That experience now has him set up for a second-year leap, which has former Steelers backup quarterback and analyst Charlie Batch liking where Pickett is entering Year 2.
“I mean, obviously with being thrown in the manner that he did last October, that was a tough stretch and I don’t care if Mitch Trubisky was quarterbacking now, I don’t think they would’ve came out of it in the manner that they did, one in three, at best maybe two and two,” Batch said during an appearance on the 93.7 The Fan Morning Show with co-hosts Adam Crowley and Dorin Dickerson. ” But as the year went on, I think what I liked coming outta that bye week, coming into the Saints game, you saw the game starting to slow down for him and he wasn’t making the same mistakes and you saw him progressively getting better and better. And, of course, we know about the comebacks that he was able to bring his team back from. I really like where he’s at and as he enters into this off season, all that experience and the game film that he played with last year, he gets to learn from that.
“And now having Matt Canada back and him being in his offense, I expect him to get better this season. And this is gonna be hopefully similar to what Ben Roethlisberger did from his first year to second year.”
Getting thrown in at halftime was a bit of a rough introduction to the NFL for Pickett, coming off the bench cold in a game that he didn’t truly prepare as the starter for. However, Pickett took to it like a fish to water, and while he had some struggles after that against the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles leading up to the Week 9 bye, he flipped a switch after that and had a great second half of the season.
Three fourth-quarter comebacks and four game-winning drives as part of a 7-2 stretch proves that, but as Batch points out, Pickett stopped making those mistakes he made in the first half of the season: forcing some throws he shouldn’t have, using his legs a bit more to take what the defense was giving him, and just generally playing better start to finish in games overall.
Now, entering Year 2, he has the feel for the NFL under his belt. Experience is key, and Pickett has it in abundance now. How that experience helps him in Year 2 as the quarterback of the Steelers remains to be seen, but it’s hard to not have a good feeling about the quarterback entering Year 2, much like Batch said.
He’s already taking charge of the offense in his second season, emerging as that leader overall for the Black and Gold. That’s a great sign. Now, he has to put it all together on the field and show that the best teaching tool is experience.