The Steelers have made the decision to go to Kenny Pickett at quarterback. Here’s why Pittsburgh needs to let him air it out in his first NFL start.
All week, I’ve been running this Steelers vs Bills game through my head and trying to think of every possible outcome. Sadly, almost none of them conclude with an upset win for Pittsburgh. Mike Tomlin is facing the biggest underdog game of his career with his rookie quarterback making his first start on the road against a brutal Buffalo defense.
Even considering the circumstances, I still think Kenny Pickett could have a good game, but it starts with Pittsburgh’s approach. The focus from Tomlin and offensive coordinator, Matt Canada, should not be the typical lecture about playing ball-control offense, controlling the clock, and getting strong defensive stands.
This type of approach simply isn’t going to work against Josh Allen and an offense that can go off for 30-40 points on any given week. If the Pittsburgh Steelers really want to give themselves a chance in this game, they need to let Kenny Pickett be himself and sling the rock often.
Steelers can’t hold Kenny Pickett back
This is a tough defense to take the training wheels off against, and Pickett obviously doesn’t have much NFL experience. However, we are still talking about a first-round pick who spent five seasons with the Pitt Panthers and led his team to an 11-3 record and an ACC Championship in 2021 — the best season since Dan Marino in 1981.
Part of the reason Pickett was able to make such big strides as a redshirt senior last season was the willingness on the part of head coach Pat Narduzzi and his staff to allow Pickett to sling the pigskin nearly 500 times last year.
This isn’t to say that the Steelers should have Pickett throwing the ball 50 times in his debut, but if you are to keep pace with Josh Allen and the Bills offense, Pittsburgh should be asking their rookie QB to cut it loose — even at the expense of possibly turning the ball over.
If the Steelers try to play more conservatively in an effort to control the clock and avoid mistakes, it’s really going to cap their offense this week against a premier defense. I know it sounds risky, but Pittsburgh’s coaching staff should be encouraging their young quarterback to fire the ball over the middle of the field to talented players like George Pickens, Pat Freiermuth, and Diontae Johnson.
We have seen quarterbacks around the NFL become too complacent with trying to avoid turnovers and living to check the ball down. The Steelers need to try to start Pickett’s career with a bang, and the only way they can hand with Buffalo this year is by allowing their rookie quarterback to be aggressive through the air.