The media has been hard on Kenny Pickett’s performance against the Bengals, but the Steelers rookie was just a few plays away from an outstanding game.
Hypotheticals or ‘could have, should have, would haves’ don’t mean much in the game of football. What happened, happened and what’s done is done. However, it’s hard sometimes not to dwell on a few narrowly-missed plays that would have altered the narrative dramatically.
This was the case for Kenny Pickett in Week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback had an electric second quarter and the team’s 20 first-half points were as much as they’ve scored offensively in any game this season prior to that point.
The second half did not go so well for Pickett as his offense managed just 10 points over the final two quarters — 7 of which came when the game was essentially out of reach. In the end, Pickett finished with a stat line of 25/42 for 265 yards and a touchdown in the loss, per ESPN stats.
On paper, his 6.3 yards per attempt and 85.9 passer rating are pretty pedestrian. However, if a few missed plays in this game would have been made, the media could be going wild over Pickett’s performance right now.
Pickett overthrow or a miscommunication?
Midway through the game, Kenny Pickett had a chance to hit a wide-open George Pickens in the middle of the endzone. The rookie receiver had just ran a beautiful route to create separation and it looked like Pickett airmailed it for a massive missed opportunity.
This pass was far from perfect and didn’t need to be placed in the back of the endzone. However, after rewatching this play multiple times, it appeared that Pickens turned in the opposite direction to look for the football, but the ball was already in the air. When he tried to flip back around, he stumbled — making the overthrow look worse than it was.
This would have been a massive touchdown reception that would have aided in Pickett’s numbers and greatly boosted his yards per attempt and passer rating. Again, it was a missed play, but it could have greatly altered the narrative.
Steelers rookie drops a dime from Kenny Pickett
The biggest missed opportunity of the game came in what some are calling Pickett’s best pass of the season. Late in the game down two scores, the rookie quarterback dropped an absolute dime in a bucket deep down the field. The ball traveled roughly 45 yards past the line of scrimmage and would have gone for nearly a 50-yard touchdown.
Pickett placed this ball just beyond the cornerback and safety into the hands of George Pickens. While Pickens usually catches everything in his radius, this was a flat-out drop. A score here would have given the Steelers a fighting chance as there would have been over 1:50 remaining in the game (though the outcome probably would have remained the same.
We could have been looking at a much different game from Pickett
If even one of these plays was made, we would probably be looking at Pickett’s performance in a much different light. Instead of an average stat line, we would have been looking at over 300 yards and at least two touchdowns on the evening. These big-time throws also would have greatly elevated his yards per attempt and passer rating.
Kenny Pickett clearly didn’t play a perfect game against the Bengals. He was way off the mark on a few throws and tried to squeeze the ball in traffic at times when it just wasn’t there. However, he was just a few narrowly-missed plays away from a monster breakout performance. Ultimately, it didn’t come in Week 11, but let’s hope that it does soon.