A strong work ethic alone doesn’t make for a successful NFL quarterback. But the absence of one has doomed many a career. That won’t be a concern for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Kenny Pickett, praised by everyone who has worked with him for an unstoppable work ethic and dedication to get better. GM Omar Khan was the latest to state that case, telling Pat McAfee Thursday that Pickett works as hard as anyone.
“This guy wants to be great,” Khan told McAfee. “His work ethic is second-to-none.”
Of course, Khan isn’t breaking any news here. In fact, it’s not the first time he’s made a similar comment about Pickett, saying similar in February. But now that Pickett is back in the building with OTAs about to really ramp up, it’s easier to gauge where he’s at heading into Year Two. Unlike a year ago, Pickett knows his place on the team. He’s not a rookie trying to learn everyone’s name and wonder where he might fall in the pecking order come the start of the season. His role is defined, the Steelers’ starting quarterback, and he can proceed in that manner.
Two weeks after the Steelers’ season ended, Pickett said he got back to training and into the gym. He’s added weight this offseason, gaining 12-13 pounds of good muscle, and will enter the spring as the team’s unquestioned starter. While Pittsburgh’s roster looks better than a year ago, the Steelers still face a tough AFC North and AFC at-large and lack the firepower of some of the conference’s best teams.
For all the feel-good stories of the offseason, the Steelers still averaged only 18.4 points per game in 2022, just barely better than their 2019 mark with Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges starting most of the year. Even after the bye when the offense legitimately got better, they still averaged just 20.8 points per game, which would’ve ranked only 18th overall in the NFL.
While Pittsburgh is creating a ball-control brand of offense, Pickett will need his training wheels taken off. He’s proven he can play, he can win, and if the Steelers view him as their franchise guy, they need to act as such. It doesn’t mean throwing the ball at the rate Ben Roethlisberger did but Pickett needs to have more freedom than just “don’t lose the game” as was the task the backhalf of last year. Mike Tomlin’s in his corner. Omar Khan’s in his corner. Now those actions need to be put into words.