The Pittsburgh Steelers have gotten some impressive play out of Kenny Pickett in the preseason. Here’s how he compares to top rookie QBs since 2015.
If you haven’t been impressed with Kenny Pickett so far in his first preseason, I’m going to go ahead and assume that you set your expectations way too high. Admittedly, I was not in full support of the Pickett selection in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft (I still don’t know if I am), but what we have seen from the Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback in his first rookie season has been pretty incredible.
While his playing time has been a bit more limited than I would have hoped for, Pickett has been showcasing his ability to deliver a very accurate pass on time and has been making some great decisions with the football. Though I still want to see him start to air it out a bit more down the field, it’s hard to argue with the results.
In his first two preseason games (roughly three total quarters of action), Pickett has completed 19 of 22 passes for 171 yards for 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, via ESPN. This is good for a spectacular 138.6 passer rating (132.6 against the Seahawks and 151.5 against the Jaguars). While the total yardage number and yards per attempt (7.7) could be a bit higher, Pickett also had two big plays called back against the Jaguars due to penalties on the offensive line.
Pickett’s numbers have been so impressive, in fact, that his passer rating through two preseason games actually tops the remarkable rookie preseason we saw from Dak Prescott when he first lit the world on fire in 2016, according to NFL Research:
We can try to nitpick his game all we want, but it’s awfully hard to do that after what we’ve witnessed these past two weeks. Everybody should be impressed with his performance so far, but will it continue?
Will Pickett continue his impressive streak with Steelers?
As much as we want to declare Pickett as the next big thing, it’s important to remember that this is still just the exhibition action we are talking about. The rookie quarterback did play ahead of Mason Rudolph against the Jaguars, but he has yet to see extensive action against NFL starters.
The question now becomes whether or not Pickett will be able to ride the coattails of his early success if and when he gets his chance in the regular season. While it seems very likely that Mitch Trubisky will begin the 2022 season as Pittsburgh’s starting QB, it’s probably just a matter of time before Pickett sees the field.
In order to be as impressive as he has been in early exhibition action, two things must happen. First, I think Pickett needs to see the field at the right time and against the right opponent. As much as I would like to see the 24-year-old start very early in his NFL career, I don’t think it would be wise to throw him to the wolves in Week 1 against the Bengals on the road or to even do so against a team like the Bills or Buccaneers. Mike Tomlin needs to wait for that perfect opportunity for a successful transition to the NFL stage.
Secondly, I think the offensive line is going to have to show improvement. In Week 2 of the preseason, Mitch Trubisky was running around like a chicken with its head cut off against the Jaguars. This line will probably end up being one of the worst units in the league again in 2022, but Tomlin should at least give them some time to gel and see if they can improve before risking injury to Pickett behind them or getting his confidence shaken.
If the Steelers are able to find that perfect scenario for Kenny Pickett to see his first NFL action, he might be able to pick up right where he left off in the preseason. It will be interesting to see if Tomlin plans to play Pickett in the preseason finale against the Lions and exactly how many looks he would get. Regardless, his preseason has been about as impressive as any rookie QB in recent years.