Steelers QB report card: Pickett shows flashes in loss
Steelers QB Kenny Pickett got off to a hot start against the Bengals, but the 2nd half was a different story. Here is why it was a tale of two halves.
The Steelers finally reached the 30-point mark this season, but it was sadly not enough as they fell 37-30 to the Bengals. Kenny Pickett and the Steelers offense exploded in the first half, scoring 20 points in impressive fashion and managing a 20-17 lead. However, the defense and passing game fell off after halftime, being outscored 20-10 down the stretch.
It was an up-and-down day for the Steelers rookie QB, but he showed flashes of brilliance we had rarely seen so far this season. Let’s start with his impressive first half of the game.
Steelers Pickett has best half of football as a pro
Going into their game against the Bengals, the Steelers offense struggled to score even a modest 20 points so far this season. They managed to hit that mark against the Saints the previous week, but Pickett especially still had a shaky performance. That was not the case in the first half against Cincinnati, scoring 20 points and Pickett leading the charge with 141 yards and a touchdown.
The offense was humming for really the first time all season, and it looked like things were finally coming together. Pickett was accurate, poised, and more willing than ever to throw past the sticks instead of relying on short completions. George Pickens and Pat Freiermuth were his favorite targets, with Pickens getting wide open for Pickett’s only score.
Unfortunately, that offensive spark went out as quickly as it appeared.
Steelers Pickett loses momentum in the second half
For all the good the offense did in the first half, the second half was equally as bad. The Steelers went three-and-out on three consecutive drives to begin the half, and even their next drive only netted six yards but ended with a field goal. That was thanks to a pick by Levi Wallace. Their only other score came in garbage time on a nine-play, 72-yard touchdown drive. Outside of that drive, the Steelers had just 52 yards of offense on seven possessions in the second half.
Pickett finished 25 of 42 for 265 yards and a touchdown. The numbers don’t look that terrible on the surface, but it was the difference between the first and second half that is a cause for concern. First half: 14 of 19, 141 yards, and a touchdown. Second half: 11 of 23, 124 yards, and no touchdowns. Pickett’s accuracy and pocket presence fell off dramatically after halftime. The play calling and the offensive line didn’t do him any favors, but something was off with Pickett for almost the entire second half.
Overall, Pickett showed more flashes in this game than any other so far in his young career. Although he did have a rough second half, there will be a lot he and the coaching staff can build upon the rest of the season.
The Steelers 3-7 record likely dooms their season, so Pickett’s development is the top priority over the next seven weeks. He will likely have a significantly different offensive staff to guide him next year as well, and hopefully, they have a plan to maximize his talents. Until then, the occasional flashes of brilliance are likely all Steelers fans can hope for.