The Pittsburgh Steelers have been as loyal to their players as any team in the National Football League. Their unmatched loyalty is excellent for keeping veteran leaders around and maintaining continuity. However, they have a tendency to be loyal to a fault.
In years past, they have overpaid old players based on their past production and have kept their own players around longer than they should have. When it comes to draft picks, Pittsburgh somehow allowed Jarvis Jones to start for four years (and Artie Burns for three) before coming to the conclusion that they just aren't getting any good.
Now, two games into the season, fans are already wondering if Kenny Pickett isn't the answer at the quarterback position... and they have a right to be concerned.
Gone are the days when players could be afforded the opportunity to redshirt their first year or so and ease themselves into action. Back in the day, Troy Polamalu didn't earn a single start until his second NFL season. Meanwhile, Cameron Heyward didn't record his first start until year three.
It's a different league today. Coaches and players are collectively on a shorter leash, and teams must produce results. For this reason, organizations are giving up on young players earlier than ever before.
The past year or so has been a great example of why teams can't afford to stick around and wait for bad quarterback play to improve. In the 2021 NFL Draft, the New York Jets selected BYU QB Zach Wilson with the second overall pick. Just seven starts into his second NFL season, Wilson was benched. It's not that the Jets had other quality options either, as they turned to Mike White and Joe Flacco in a desperate effort to seek out respectable QB play.
In a very similar way, the 49ers selected Trey Lance with the third overall pick in the 2021 draft. Their investment was much larger, however, as they packaged three first-round picks together to move up for Lance. Even with such a costly investment, Kyle Shanahan recognized that Lance was not going to be their franchise QB and he shipped him away to Dallas for a fourth-round pick.
Steelers must get better play from Kenny Pickett
Now all eyes are on Steelers second-year quarterback, Kenny Pickett. After looking promising down the stretch during his rookie year and after an impressive preseason in 2023, Pickett's performance has been grimacing. Though his first two games, Pickett has completed just 60.5 percent of his passes for 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions while recording a dismal 4.7 adjusted yards per attempt to go with a disgusting 18.8 QBR, per Pro Football Reference.
Obviously, not all of this is Pickett's fault. His offensive line has put him in a jam often and Matt Canada's playcalling isn't cutting it. Additionally, he has gone against two top pass-rushing units in his first two games.
Regardless, Steelers fans know that we are not seeing the results we need to see. If you take away the defensive scores against the Browns, Pittsburgh is averaging just 9.5 points per game over their first two contests.
The turnaround needs to start in Week 3 with Kenny Pickett on Sunday Night Football. The Raiders are not some powerhouse team, and they've got a suspect defense. Pickett needs to get his confidence back with an outstanding showing in primetime.
If we continue to see much of the same from Pickett in Week 3, Mike Tomlin and the coaching staff could lose confidence in their young quarterback rather quickly. These next few games will be huge for Kenny Pickett if he wants to avoid the same fate that players like Zach Wilson and Trey Lance have already suffered. The clock could be ticking on the Pittsburgh Steelers QB, and it's time to step up to the plate.