Steelers News

Kenny Pickett Outside Of Top 20 In PFF’s QB Rankings Ahead Of 2023 Season

Coming off of a strong close to his rookie season, expectations are high entering Year 2 for Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett.

Even with those high expectations and the expected substantial leap forward in his second season as a starter — first as a full-time starter — Pickett ranks rather low in the starting quarterback rankings from Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson Tuesday morning.

Pickett comes in at No. 22 overall, putting him in the bottom half of the league when it comes to starters in the NFL. Pickett landed ahead of San Francisco’s Brock Purdy, who slotted in at No. 23 in Monson’s QB rankings. The two will be tied together moving forward as members of the same draft class.

“The best quarterback in what was deemed an awful quarterback class, Pickett performed admirably in his rookie season even though the statistics weren’t necessarily pretty. His PFF passing grade was good enough to rank 16th in the league, but he finished the season with more interceptions (nine) than touchdowns (seven),” Monson writes regarding Pickett’s ranking for PFF. “Pittsburgh’s scheme was toothless and predictable in 2022, and that might be the biggest obstacle standing between Pickett and real improvement in these rankings.”

The statistics, as Monson points out, weren’t always pretty for Pickett. He finished his rookie season with 2,404 passing yards, seven touchdowns and nine interceptions. He added three rushing touchdowns for the Steelers after taking over as the starter at halftime of the Week 4 loss to the New York Jets at Acrisure Stadium.

Though his first few weeks under center against the likes of the Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles were rather rough, Pickett found his footing after the Week 9 bye for the Steelers. He helped Pittsburgh go on a run in the second half of the season, thanks to some late-game heroics.

In his rookie season, Pickett orchestrated three fourth quarter comebacks and four game-winning drives for Pittsburgh, helping the Black and Gold go 7-2 down the stretch overall to finish 9-8 on the season and narrowly miss the playoffs.

He showed he has that “it” factor in big moments. When the lights get bright and the moment gets tight, he simply didn’t shrink, instead rising to the occasion.

That was big for a young quarterback to go through and grow from. That has him set up for success moving forward and has raised the bar on expectations as well.

While he has a bit of a way to go before he proves that he is truly legit and a realistic franchise quarterback for the Steelers, the excitement and expectations around Pickett entering Year 2 are rather high, as they should be. The NFL has recently seen some second-year quarterbacks, like Trevor Lawrence and Jalen Hurts, make significant leaps. Though it might be a stretch to expect Pickett to make the leap into stardom that Hurts and Lawrence did last season, that’s the type of company and expectations he’s put himself into due to his performance down the stretch in 2022.

If Pickett can make that Year 2 leap many are expecting, especially considering how often the Year 2 leaps have occurred for other young quarterbacks in recent seasons, the Steelers will be in a great spot moving forward, seemingly having figured out the most important position in sports rather quickly.

Elsewhere in the AFC North, Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow landed at No. 3 in Monson’s rankings, while Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson cracked the rankings at No. 6, and Cleveland’s Deshaun Watson came in at No. 13 overall. Unsurprisingly, Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes landed at No. 1 in the rankings.

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