Entering Year 2 in the NFL, quarterback Kenny Pickett is undoubtedly the man in charge of the Pittsburgh Steelers offensively.
One could argue it’s his team now as the Steelers continue to transition, putting him at the forefront, as the perceived national face of the franchise, right or wrong.
With that comes a ton of attention and expectations, which has the former Pitt Panthers star as one of The Athletic’s players to watch entering OTAs this week on the South Side at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
The Athletic’s Mike Jones highlighted one player to watch for all 32 teams in OTAs and Pickett was the easy selection for the Black and Gold.
“The second-year quarterback proved serviceable last season, going 7-5 while completing 63 percent of his passes for 2,404 yards, seven touchdowns and nine interceptions. But anyone who knows anything about the quarterback position will tell you the second offseason is a crucial window for growth for a young passer,” Jones writes.
Pickett was rather impressive in the second half of the season, cutting way down on the turnovers and general mistakes a young quarterback makes. He put together some strong performances overall in leading the Steelers to a 6-2 record when he was on the field.
Pittsburgh rebounded from a disastrous 2-6 start to finish 9-8, with a handful of wins in the second half of the season coming due to Pickett leading fourth quarter comebacks (Saints and Colts wins) and game-winning drives (Raiders, Ravens). 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.
Now, it all sets up for a big second season in Pittsburgh.
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.