The Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their lumps with Kenny Pickett, but the rookie quarterback can’t afford to get gunshy early in his NFL career.
As I’ve stated multiple times now, I don’t believe the timing was right when Mike Tomlin asked Kenny Pickett to take the stage. It was a trial by fire for the rookie first-round pick when he was thrown into the Jets game in Week 4 without preparation with the starters. From there, Pickett was named the starter prior to an incredibly daunting four-game stretch against the Bills, Buccaneers, Dolphins, and Eagles.
All but one of these games before the Week 9 bye have been played, and the results are about as poor as we could have imagined. Entering Week 8 against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Pittsburgh Steelers are mustering up just 14.4 offensive points per contest — one of the very worst numbers in the league.
The rest of their statistics are equally dissatisfying, as Pittsburgh ranks near the very bottom of the league in offensive yards per game, yards per play, passing yards per attempt, rushing yards per attempt, and DVOA, according to stats from Team Rankings and Football Outsiders. This is not at all where we want them to be.
Amidst their unrelenting struggles, the Steelers are trying to deal with the fact that Kenny Pickett has thrown a whopping 7 interceptions in just four games. If we condense this a bit further, Pickett played only the second half against the Jets and roughly just the first half against the Buccaneers — meaning that these 7 picks have essentially come in just 3 full games. This is obviously concerning.
Some of these picks sealed the fate of the Steelers late in the game — including his most recent against the Miami Dolphins on what was a very questionable decision, to say the least.
Steelers can’t let Kenny Pickett get gunshy
Despite all of the interceptions we’ve witnessed very early in his NFL career, the last thing Mike Tomlin and the Steelers should want is for Kenny Pickett to get gunshy. When this happens to quarterbacks, there is typically no going back.
The Steelers simply can’t afford for this to happen. Pickett is already dead last in the NFL in adjusted yards per attempt among qualifying quarterbacks, according to Pro Football Reference.
If anything, I would argue that Pickett is too gunshy already and needs to get more aggressive with the football — even considering the number of interceptions he has already thrown. What really hurts is that he has to overcome the dismal play-calling of Matt Canada.
Thinking he’s protecting Pickett by routinely using QB rollouts and simple reads, Canada is actually stunting the rookie’s development. This type of scripted one-read offense will never be good enough to sustain drives and put up points with the best teams in the league.
I’m sure you noticed that Pickett looked his best in true pass sets during the two-minute drill or when Pittsburgh would go uptempo. This is how he needs to be used moving forward, as Canada’s offense is clearly capping his ceiling.
Obviously, Pickett needs to make better decisions with the football as well. But not allowing him to pass the ball down the field or over the middle is not the way to go. As I said before in a previous article, the Steelers need to take their lumps with Pickett after naming him the starter, but this staff should be encouraging him to look down the field and go through progressions. The last thing they can afford is to create a gunshy quarterback who loses the will to sling the ball down the field.
I truly hope that Kenny Pickett has the confidence to put these seven interceptions behind him and focus on the next task at hand. In the long run, these interceptions won’t really matter if he turns out to be a franchise quarterback. He just can’t afford to get gunshy.