Kenny Pickett had a worst-case start to Steelers training camp

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) participates in minicamp at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) participates in minicamp at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Kenny Pickett might be the quarterback of the future for Pittsburgh, but he doesn’t look it so far at Steelers training camp. Here’s what needs to change.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Kenny Pickett with the 20th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, I was not pleased. I knew that the team had their sights set on a QB, but I was strongly against taking one from what I graded as a poor QB class this year.

Still, when Pickett became the selection, I went on record saying that I hope to be proven wrong. Unfortunately, Pickett looks much worse to start Steelers training camp than I could have predicted.

It’s not time to hit the panic button just yet — it’s still very early. However, we have not seen many signs that show us that Pickett has what it takes to be the QB of the future for Pittsburgh.

In his first four practices to begin camp, Pickett has been incredibly sloppy. He looks skittish in the pocket, he hasn’t connected on much of anything down the field and has made some poor decisions with the football. According to Alex Kozora’s charting, Pickett has gone just 13 of 26 for 55 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions during team sessions in the first four practices.

This would give Pickett just 2.1 yards per attempt passing the football — a number that would have been a distant last place in the NFL in 2021. In comparison, Kozora has Mason Rudolph charted at 5.7 yards per attempt while Mitch Trubisky is at 5.0 yards per attempt.

To be honest, the quarterback play has been very unspectacular all-around, but it’s hard to argue that Pickett has even been in the same tier as underwhelming veterans Rudolph and Trubisky. At this rate, it would take a miracle for him to be in contention for the starting QB job from the gate.

Where Steelers rookie QB must improve

I have to admit that I had much higher expectations from the gate for Kenny Pickett. As a 24-year-old rookie with five years of college experience, I didn’t think Pickett would look so rusty making the NFL jump — especially after a great 2021 season that included leading his team to an ACC title.

The good news is that it is very early and things have the ability to change drastically soon. However, there is a lot Pickett will have to improve upon in order to look like the best QB option on this team.

For starters, Pickett just needs to get comfortable in the pocket. While I think he’s done a pretty good job keeping his eyes down the field, he’s certainly not used to being under such quick pressure play after play. At Pitt, Pickett was aided by a good offensive line and was able to hold the ball longer than nearly every other NCAA Division 1 QB last year. He is not going to be able to do that now.

This is a process, and part of that includes learning the playbook and developing chemistry with his receivers. While Pickett certainly has the ability to extend the play by rolling out of the pocket, he needs to work on simply going through his progressions and delivering an accurate ball on time.

Pickett also needs to start taking some shots down the field. He seems far too content to dump the ball down underneath at this point in time. If he can’t start proving that he has the arm to make NFL throws, it’s going to be a while until his opportunity comes.

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We would have liked to have seen a much cleaner start for Kenny Pickett in his first Steelers training camp, but it looks like we are going to have to go through some growing pains. Let’s just hope that he turns things around soon and gives us reason to believe that he will be the quarterback of the future in Pittsburgh.