Steeler QB Kenny Pickett has some eye-popping numbers vs the blitz

Kenny Pickett #8 of the Pittsburgh Steelers directs his team in the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 28, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Kenny Pickett #8 of the Pittsburgh Steelers directs his team in the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 28, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

Kenny Pickett has been far from perfect as a rookie, but his numbers against the blitz this year should give Pittsburgh Steelers fans hope. 

It has been a very rocky road for rookie quarterback, Kenny Pickett, this season. Since replacing Mitch Trubisky at halftime of the Jets game in Week 4, Pickett has made some questionable decisions with the football and struggled with consistency against one of the NFL’s toughest first-half schedules.

The good news is that the arrow has been pointed up in recent weeks. Following Pittsburgh’s Week 9 bye, the Steelers are 2-1 and have scored 24.6 points per contest. This is a big improvement from the 15 points per game they were used to entering the bye. Much of the reason for the improvement has to do with Pickett.

The rookie quarterback is still far from where he needs to be in terms of both efficiency and production. In addition to having the NFL’s worst touchdown-to-interception ratio, Pickett ranks at the very bottom of the league in yards per attempt and adjusted yards per attempt — a slump he needs to get himself out of soon.

However, there is good news in all of this. Despite his apparent struggles, Pickett has done one thing very well so far: passed the ball under pressure.

According to a recent article by Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports, Pickett has been quite exceptional when defenses attempt to send the blitz after him. Here’s what Kerr had to say:

"Kenny Pickett continues to thrive against the blitz: Pickett has a 71.7% completion rate against the blitz, which is the highest among all NFL quarterbacks. In Monday’s win over the Colts, Pickett went 7 of 9 for 69 yards with a 98.6 passer rating, playing mistake free football when defenses send an extra rusher to challenge him.Pickett has a 106.9 rating against the blitz without an interception. Not bad for a rookie quarterback with a poor offensive line. The Steelers quarterback has had his struggles, but facing the blitz is not one of them."

Many quarterbacks (especially young quarterbacks) struggle when defenses bring the heat. It was essentially this reason that led to Zach Wilson’s benching, as the Jets QB and former number two overall pick ranked dead last in the NFL in passer rating when under pressure.

Fortunately, Pickett is ahead of the curve in this department, and the film would concur. Against the Colts, the Steelers rookie QB made a few grown-man throws with the pressure barreling down on him. His best of the night was a dart to George Pickens across the middle of the field — knowing he was going to take a lick to the chops after delivering the ball.

Steelers fans have reason to be optimistic

I think it’s important to be as objective as possible when evaluating Kenny Pickett’s performance to date. Frankly, much of it hasn’t been pretty (especially before the bye week). However, we have seen him make some strides in the right direction. While the numbers might not be gaudy, the film suggests that fans have a reason to be confident in his development.

Pickett’s best half of play came in the first two quarters against the Colts on Monday Night Football where he completed 14 of 18 passes for 133 yards, per ESPN stats. In the second half, Pickett went just 6 of 10 for 41 yards, but context is important here. At least two drives stalled due to dropped passes on otherwise good throws from Pickett.

Pickett may not have the biggest arm, but his ability to move in and out of the pocket is a delight after watching an aging Ben Roethlisberger the past couple of years and his ability under pressure is encouraging.

Trending. Steelers vs Falcons Prediction and Odds for Week 13. light

There’s no question that Kenny Pickett needs to put up better numbers in the box score, as the team will never have consistent success when he ranks near the bottom of the league in very important categories. However, Steelers fans should at least take comfort in the fact that he has been good when blitzed and that he is starting to make strides.