The Steelers rookie quarterback made his debut on Sunday, and here are the highs and lows from his first professional snaps.
The Steelers took the field on Sunday with Mitchell Trubisky still at the helm. After another putrid half of football filled with what we have come to expect of him at this point, the team turned to first-round rookie Kenny Pickett. It was exciting to see the team give their hopeful franchise quarterback a shot, and he finished the game with a lot of positives and some things to build off of.
While the game was never far out of hand for either team, the offense picked up its pace with Pickett at the helm. In turn, the Steelers possessed a lead for most of the second half before losing at the very end of the game. Pickett was far from perfect though, as he needs to make a lot of improvements before he can be counted on as a legitimate star.
Pickett had plenty of good traits on display
Starting off with the positives, Pickett’s style of play was a boost to this offense. The team was getting next to nothing out of Trubisky, as he always seemed frantic in the pocket before settling for outside throws and check-downs. While the game plan has something to do with this, there were plenty of times that Trubisky missed wide-open receivers in the middle of the field.
Pickett had no issues looking over the middle, as he connected there quite a few times. Despite seeing a lot of pressure, he was composed in the pocket and was consistent with his ball placement. Statistically, he didn’t have a great showing (more on that later), but that never seemed to get into his head.
As well, he seemed to establish some great rapport with both Pat Freiermuth and George Pickens. Freiermuth has been a steady target this season, but Pickett seemed to target him more over the middle and on deeper routes. Pickens, meanwhile, seemed to catch lightning in a bottle. He has superstar potential, and Pickens seems willing to get him more involved.
Pickett was far from perfect
Looking at some of the negatives for Pickett, statistically, he didn’t have a great day. 120 passing yards in a half isn’t anything special. The pair of rushing touchdowns are nice, as was the general mobility of Pickett. The three interceptions, on the other hand, add to an ugly stat line.
The last interception I barely count as it was on a hail-mary attempt at the end of the game. His other two are deserving of some blame though. The first pick, his first pass attempt as a pro, was a deep shot to Chase Claypool that wound up as an interception.
There is some shared blame here. Claypool had the size advantage on his man and could have been more physical at the attack point. That said, the pass from Pickett was a little behind him and he threw that pass into essentially double coverage.
The second interception was far worse. On a broken play, Pickett tossed a pass to the sideline for Pat Freiermuth. It was juggled around and picked off the tip. There was no reason to attempt that pass, as Freiermuth was well covered and the play wouldn’t have gone for anything had it been completed. Pickett should have thrown the pass out of bounds, but instead, it was intercepted.
That was the main issue with the rookie. While he could command a pocket, he was also overly aggressive, and it cost the Steelers. This defense isn’t good enough right now to overcome a lot of offensive mistakes right now. If Pickett remains as the starter, he needs to be safer with the ball.
It was a mixed day for Pickett, as he had plenty of highs and lows during his first game. While the expectation is that he will remain the starter, he still has a lot of work to do before he can be counted on as a good player. It was an up-and-down day for the future of the franchise, and he has a lot of things to fix going forward.