Entering the 2023 season, it already looked like the AFC was going to be loaded with talented quarterbacks, and Pittsburgh Steelers fans were hoping that Kenny Pickett would be one of them. Unfortunately, he has not progressed like most of us would have hoped. Now the second-year quarterback is already being left in the dust by younger and more talented signal-callers.
In his first-ever NFL game, Will Levis threw for 4 touchdowns in Week 8 before facing the Steelers. Now in Week 9, we just witnessed an utterly spectacular performance from rookie C.J. Stroud.
Going up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Stroud exploded for 470 passing yards and 5 passing touchdowns. This proved to be one of the greatest single-game performances we have ever seen in a rookie quarterback. In the process, Stroud mounted a game-winning drive to seal a 39-37 victory for the Texans.
Stroud has been remarkable in his first NFL season. Through 8 games, the rookie quarterback has managed to record 14 touchdowns to go with just 1 interception. He's also averaging an outstanding 9.0 adjusted yards per pass attempt, and his 102.9 passer rating is through the roof.
While we all love seeing great quarterback play in the NFL, Stroud's emergence should have Steelers fans feeling discouraged about their current QB situation.
Kenny Pickett doesn't look like the answer for the Steelers
If the evaluation process was as simple as tallying a quarterback's wins, Kenny Pickett would be doing just fine. The second-year QB has a record of 12-8 as a starter, which is great for a young quarterback. But there's so much more that goes into this, and it's hard to argue that the Steelers have been winning because of Pickett.
When it comes to both raw numbers and advanced metrics, Pickett is scraping the bottom of the barrel. The former first-round pick has just 6 passing touchdowns to go with 4 interceptions in 8 games this season, and his 6.2 yards per attempt is a bit concerning (as is his 81.6 passer rating).
What's most discouraging is that from Year 1 to Year 2, Pickett hasn't seemed to make many improvements. His completion percentage and QBR have gone down, while his yards per game remain roughly the same. Pickett also only has one game of 300 passing yards in his career and one game of at least 2 passing touchdowns.
On the other hand, Stroud already has 3 games of over 300 passing yards and 5 games with at least 2 passing touchdowns. His team is also scoring nearly a touchdown more per game than the Steelers under Pickett and the Texans blew out Pittsburgh 30-6 back in Week 4. What's most sickening is that, in 8 career games, Stroud already has more career touchdown passes than Pickett has in 21 games.
It certainly looks like C.J. Stroud is already better than Kenny Pickett. This is pretty hard to refute at this point. The reality is that Pickett has simply been a below-average quarter in his first two seasons, and that might not be enough to get the job done in a crowded AFC. So far, he doesn't look like the long-term answer the Steelers need at the position.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.