The Pittsburgh Steelers have gotten spectacular play from their first-round pick so far. Here’s how Kenny Pickett is looking compared to other rookie QBs around the league.
The 2022 NFL Draft was expected to have some strong positional groups, but the quarterback was not one of them. It seemed like most draft analysts didn’t have a true first-round grade on any QB this year, as they each had their flaws. Kenny Pickett was no exception.
Pickett was the definition of a one-year-wonder in college. After four seasons with pedestrian numbers and average play, Pickett really stepped up his play as a redshirt senior in 2021 to lead the Pitt Panthers to an ACC championship.
In addition to having just a one-year sample of great play, many analysts worried about Pickett’s remarkably small hands and ability to drive the football. Despite his quality size (6’3 1/4”, 217 lbs), Pickett didn’t have a huge arm, and this concerned some evaluators.
Ultimately, Pickett was the only quarterback selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. So far, it’s looking like the Pittsburgh Steelers made the right choice. Through the first two preseason games of 2022, Pickett certainly looks like he’s cut from a different cloth than the other rookie QBs that came out this year. In fact, his passer rating is the best we’ve seen from a rookie in the preseason in years — even topping Dak Prescott’s remarkable summer in 2016:
Pickett hasn’t just blown the rookie QB competition out of the water, he has also been one of the single most impressive players in exhibition action so far this year. Though his snaps have been more limited than some of the other quarterbacks, his 138.6 passer rating is better than anything we could have hoped for.
Will Pickett prove to be the right choice for the Steelers?
Dominating in exhibition action is one thing, but it’s something else entirely to do this in the regular season. Kenny Pickett has clearly moved ahead of Mason Rudolph on Steelers depth chart, but Mitch Trubiksy is still expected to be Pittsburgh’s starting QB to begin the 2022 season.
However, it may not take long for a change to occur — especially if the Steelers struggle against a tough schedule early in the season. When this does happen, will Pickett be able to prove that he was the right selection for this franchise?
In all honestly, I wasn’t a fan of selecting a quarterback at all this year. I didn’t think it was a particularly good QB class, and it was looking like the best option was to wait and try again in 2023. So far, I certainly can’t say that I’m disappointed with what I’ve seen. If anything, I’m incredibly optimistic at the moment.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve carved out some time to evaluate the preseason performances of the other quarterbacks from the 2022 draft. While I’ve been impressed by the play of Dolphins rookie, Skylar Thompson, Pickett objectively has been the best of the group. Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder, and Sam Howell have each had their moments, but the consistency has not been there at all.
Pickett, on the other hand, seems to get better every day. Against the Jaguars in the second week of the preseason, he recorded a 151.5 passer rating after completing 6 of 7 passes for 76 yards and a touchdown (10.9 yards per attempt), via ESPN stats. His only incompletion of the game was a spike to stop the clock just before halftime (which really shouldn’t even count).
Regardless of which quarterback we liked the most coming into the 2022 NFL Draft, I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable trading Kenny Pickett for any of them at the moment. The Steelers saw something they really liked in him, and I’m hoping he can continue to impress us as he has been.