Steelers QB report card: Kenny Pickett comes up clutch vs Ravens
The Steelers kept their playoff hopes alive thanks to a last-minute drive by Kenny Pickett. Here is how he performed against the Ravens.
The Steelers defeated the Ravens 16-13 Sunday night, thanks in large part to a strong fourth quarter from both sides of the ball. It was a typically ugly AFC North slugfest with more total rushing yards than passing yards in the game. Despite the emphasis on the run game, Kenny Pickett was the one who ultimately decided the game. Here is how the Steelers young QB performed.
Steelers Pickett was held back by play-calling early
When the Steelers and Ravens played in week 14, Mitch Trubisky was forced into action after Kenny Pickett suffered a concussion early in the game. That worked out in the Ravens favor, as Trubisky showed why he is no longer in the Steelers plans. This game with the season on the line was Pickett’s first real chance to leave a mark on the storied rivalry between these teams, and early it seemed he wouldn’t get the chance.
Predictable play calling by offensive coordinator Matt Canada kept the passing game stuck in the mud for most of the game. The run game was excellent throughout the night, but too many run-run-pass sequences killed drives. Pickett was not allowed to get into a rhythm, instead being asked to deliver on 3rd-down primarily.
That put more pressure on Pickett than was necessary. Implementing more quick throws on long 2nd-downs and play-action after a strong 1st-down run would have helped create the big plays that this offense is still missing. Overall, it felt like Canada was being too cautious with his young QB. Luckily, it wouldn’t matter on the final drive.
Pickett saves the Steelers once again
Kenny Pickett had just 104 yards passing as the Steelers offense took over down 13-9 with 4:16 left to go. By the end of that drive, he had 168 yards to go along with the game-winning touchdown. It was reminiscent of a week ago when Pickett drove the Steelers down the field to beat the Raiders. That game was played under much different circumstances, but the result was the same: almost no passing game until the game was truly on the line.
While it’s great that Pickett was able to complete consecutive game-winning drives, I can’t help but wonder what the offense could look like with him being given more chances. The drive against the Ravens especially showed what he can do as a playmaker. The throws to Pat Freiermuth and Steven Sims on that drive were spectacular, and the game-winner to Najee was just perfect. If the Steelers do indeed make the playoffs, that play will be remembered as a big reason why.
Overall, Pickett finished 15 of 27 for 168 yards and a touchdown. The box score continues to look lackluster, but I truly believe the coaching staff is over-protecting him. It’s still too early to be sure if Pickett can be the QB to lead the Steelers back to the Super Bowl, but the more I see of him the more confident I am that he can be. Even if this team fails to make the playoffs, the future seems bright for Kenny Pickett and the Steelers.