Is Kenny Pickett going to be enough for the Steelers to succeed?
By Tommy Jaggi
The Pittsburgh Steelers think they’ve drafted their franchise quarterback in Kenny Pickett, but here’s why Bleacher Report thinks he ‘won’t be enough.’
I wasn’t the biggest Kenny Pickett fan prior to the 2022 NFL Draft, but I do have a fair amount of respect for the Pittsburgh Steelers as an organization. The former Pitt Panther is staying local and will continue his professional career in the Steel City for one of the most prestigious franchises in the history of the NFL.
Because of the success the Rooney family has led the Steelers to in the past, I think that Pickett is entering a good situation, and he will have a good chance to succeed. However, that depends on your definition of success.
Recently, Brent Sobleski of Bleacher Report wrote about what we have learned about each NFL team so far in 2022. When it came time to discuss the Steelers, Sobleski admitted that he thinks the Steelers got their guy but thinks Pickett ‘still won’t be enough’ to help them succeed. Here’s some of what he had to say:
"Rookie or not, Pickett is the fourth-best quarterback in the division with a former league MVP in Lamar Jackson, a former No. 1 overall pick, who already helped lead his team to a Super Bowl, in Joe Burrow and the Browns’ Deshaun Watson, whose 24 civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual assault or misconduct may lead to a suspension before he can take the field.Pickett and the Steelers are fighting an uphill battle after decades of divisional dominance. Pickett could become the 2022 NFL Rookie of the Year, and Pittsburgh could still finish dead last in the division."
It’s hard to argue with Sobleski’s logic. Even if Kenny Pickett becomes the QB most fans and analysts think he can be at the next level, that would still put him in a tier below the rest of the elite talent the AFC North has to offer at the position.
After turning the Cincinnati Bengals around and being just a few plays away from winning the Super Bowl last year, Joe Burrow has the makings of a legitimate franchise quarterback who could help carry his team to success year after year.
While Lamar Jackson gets some unfair criticism for his passing ability, the former MVP quarterback is 37-12 as a starter. His 75.5% win percentage nearly rivals the legendary Tom Brady (76.9%). Jackson turned just 25 years old during the offseason and is only one year older than Kenny Pickett despite already playing four NFL seasons and earning some impressive accolades.
Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson — who could be facing suspension at some point — is on track to have one of the greatest passer ratings in the history of the NFL (104.5) and has earned three Pro Bowls despite being on a dumpster-fire Texans team.
Steelers need Pickett to exceed expectations
Knowing the young quarterback talent the Steelers are going to be stacked up against for years to come, Kenny Pickett needs to do more than meet the expectations NFL analysts have set for him; he needs to exceed them.
Becoming an average-level starting quarterback could prove to be one of the worst things that could happen to the Steelers if this proves to be the case. Getting trapped in QB limbo during T.J. Watt’s prime and the final years of Cameron Heyward would be devastating.
While Pickett doesn’t have elite arm talent, there are some traits that could perhaps allow him to exceed expectations in the NFL. Pickett did test as a 95th percentile athlete, according to Relative Athletic Score. Though he’s not an elite runner, his impressive ability to escape the pocket and keep his eyes down the field is a trait that could set him apart from the pack at the next level.
Likewise, Pickett took a massive leap forward as a passer during his final college season in 2021, and he was clutch when it came to closing out games — earning the best single-season record for a Pitt QB since Dan Marino. He might just have that ‘it’ factor to succeed in the NFL.
It’s obviously way too early to cast a judgment on Kenny Pickett, but he’s certainly going to have his work cut out for him going against a completely stacked group of AFC quarterbacks. Let’s hope he’s up for the challenge to prove doubters wrong.