Analyzing Kenny Pickett in his debut preseason game with Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) . Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) . Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Not all Steelers fans have been supporters of Kenny Pickett since the NFL Draft, but here’s how the rookie quarterback performed in his preseason debut.

Regardless of your stance, we finally got to see Kenny Pickett take to the field for the first time as a member of the Steelers. While  Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph made some great plays, Pickett was the obvious fan favorite. If you judged his performance by fan reaction and the excitement from his teammates when he threw the game-winning touchdown with three seconds left in the game, one would think he came off the bench to win a playoff game. Even Craig Wolfly on the Steelers radio broadcast seemed enamored by Pickett’s performance.

Even in preseason games, anytime a quarterback goes 13/15 and completes his first ten passes while throwing two touchdowns (with one of them the game-winning touchdown) it’s always impressive in some fashion. If you add to that, most of the players for the Steelers in the game from the third quarter through the end of the game were players who might not be on the roster when the Steelers trim it to the final 53.

From that perspective, sure, it looks impressive. That is until you consider that most of the players for the Seahawks in the game after the third quarter are guys who will be in the unemployment line come opening weekend. Then Pickett’s performance loses its luster a bit.

Are we inflating Pickett’s performance in his Steelers debut?

So was Pickett’s performance that good, or was his opposition just that bad? To a certain degree, it was a mixture of both, but a little luck as well. Examples are Stephen Sims ripping off a 38-yard rush or Master Teague rushing for 31 yards on six carries. Yet Pickett narrowly avoided a disaster as well. He threw a strike to Conner Heyward for the two-point conversion. It was a good throw, but two defensive backs were covering him.

Suppose those were starting defensive backs. Instead of that being a two-point conversion, one could easily imagine Raven’s starting cornerback Marlon Humphrey taking a pick-six in the other direction. Pickett is no Ben Roethlisberger… well, not yet anyway.

The best way to see if his performance was a fluke would be to start Pickett in the second preseason game and see how he performs against starters and second-string players. Why? Well, two reasons. The Steelers are in the middle of the quarterback competition. Granted, the fact that Trubisky only played two series indicates he will be the Steelers starter, and the job is his to lose.

The real question is whether Kenny Pickett, entering week one, should be number two or three on the depth chart. If Pickett started against Jacksonville, he could answer the question in a big hurry. However, it seems unlikely that Coach Tomlin will do that.

Kenny Pickett enamored the fans in the stands with his debut. Nonetheless, all three Steelers quarterbacks had a good night against the Seahawks, but the wins and losses do not matter until the regular season starts, then the rubber meets the road. One thing is certain: when Trubisky falters at some point in the regular season (and he will falter at some point) it’s hard to see the Steelers go 17-0; even Big Ben couldn’t do that.

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When that moment occurs, you will hear fans screaming to the rafters we want Kenny. If he does not produce at that point, the love affair the fans obviously have with Pickett, for now, will come to a screeching halt.