Kenny Pickett won’t get an easy game after a rocky starting debut vs the Bills. Here’s why the Steelers rookie has another daunting task this week.
I’ve wanted Kenny Pickett to play from the start of the season. Sadly, I think his debut came at the most inopportune time, as I had mentioned on the Still Curtain Podcast. The Pittsburgh Steelers had a relatively easy schedule to start the season, but declaring him the starter against the Buffalo Bills last week was asking for disaster.
While Pickett did his best to salvage a game that got completely out of hand by the second quarter, the results remained humiliating as a team with Pittsburgh losing 38-3. I would have loved nothing more than for him to have a bounce-back game against an unspectacular team, but he certainly won’t be getting that in his second NFL start.
Pickett will go from facing one great defense to the next as the Steelers host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week. Despite having Tom Brady, the Bucs haven’t been great on the offensive side of the football — scoring just 20.6 points per game. However, their defense has been top notch this year.
The Buccaneers did have one dud performance against the Kansas City Chiefs (Patrick Mahomes tends to do that from time to time), but they still have only had one game on the season where they allowed more than 15 points.
Currently, the Buccaneers rank 6th in points allowed per game, 6th in yards allowed per game, 6th in yards allowed per play, and 5th in passing yards per attempt allowed, via Team Rankings. They are also 3rd in total defensive DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) and 1st in pass DVOA, according to advanced stats from Football Outsiders.
Just like last week, this is going to be an incredibly tough unit to muster points up against. Tampa Bay has a stingy defense and they held the Dallas Cowboys to just 3 points with Dak Prescott at the helm in Week 1 prior to his injury. Still, it’s not impossible for Kenny Pickett to have a big day, but the Steelers will need to exploit the Bucs’ weaknesses.
How Steelers can help Kenny Pickett vs Buccaneers
As two-score underdogs at home, it seems unlikely that the Pittsburgh Steelers will come away with a win this week, but it’s not impossible. Obviously, they will have to have a much greater offensive output than the one they witnessed last week. Mike Tomlin can help out his quarterback by doing a few things this Sunday.
For starters, Pittsburgh must be able to run the ball effectively and consistently. This is one area where Tampa Bay’s defense is only average. The Buccaneers are currently 18th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (115.6) and 16th in rushing yards allowed per attempt (4.4).
The Steelers haven’t been great on the ground, but maybe they can get the wheels turning against a susceptible rush defense this week. The weakness of the Buccaneers’ defense is their defensive line which has graded out poorly so far. Pittsburgh’s offensive line will need to get some push on the ground. A strong running game could certainly help Pickett.
Defensively, if Pittsburgh can stop a rather poor rushing attack and force the Buccaneers to be one-dimensional, they might be able to hold them to few enough points to stand a chance in this one.
In order to best a veteran like Tom Brady, it’s going to take many things going right for the Steelers this week. They need to help out their rookie QB as much as possible, but no matter how you slice it, Kenny Pickett will have another daunting task against a stingy defense again this week.