Is ESPN right to question Kenny Picketts future with Steelers?

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers were looking for their quarterback of the future last season and decided to peg hometown hero Kenny Pickett as the face of their franchise. His rookie season was filled with a lot of ups and downs. Statistically, he had a poor showing, but Pickett grew during his rookie season and had some solid showings.

That said, there seems to be a growing divide in the media about what Pickett brings to the table. While the majority of fans see Pickett as this ascending superstar (an opinion I certainly don’t share), the media seems split on his potential.

Dan Graziano from ESPN recently wrote about the biggest question marks for every team at quarterback. He claimed the Steelers issue was if Pickett will truly become the long-term solution at quarterback for this team. He cites Pickett’s progress as an obvious positive but noted that the team as a whole wasn’t effective in throwing the ball.

Should the Steelers be worried?

To be clear, not all of the sports world is inherently against Pickett. For everyone coming out questioning his ability, others are saying that the sky is the limit for Pickett in his second season. This kind of debate isn’t uncommon for teams, as quarterbacks entering their second season typically aren’t close to being at their peak yet.

Is questioning if Pickett is actually the future valid though? I would argue yes, as despite some growth from Pickett through the second half of the season, a lot of his play was still poor. While fans are quick to share his impressive game-winning pass to Najee Harris against the Ravens, he also had his fair share of struggles.

Despite being touted as a pro-ready passer, Pickett had poor decision-making and surprisingly bad middle and deep accuracy. There were times when he failed to properly progress through reads and missed open passes due to poor accuracy.

Add that in with his lack of elite traits and it is fair to question the long-term effectiveness of Pickett as a franchise quarterback. I personally don’t find offense with ESPN classifying the Steelers biggest quarterback question as if Pickett can be the franchise quarterback this team needs because of these issues.

The Steelers aren’t building a modern offense

The other fault with this season, as brought up in the ESPN article, is that Pickett isn’t exactly in a position to make a leap. Despite having a significantly improved offensive line, he doesn’t have a huge increase in quality targets. Sure, Allen Robinson should be an improvement over Steven Sims, but he hasn’t been a productive receiver for a few seasons now.

The team also retained Matt Canada as offensive coordinator. For those that blamed him for every offensive issue, what changes and makes him a better play caller for this team? The issues plaguing this team last year are likely still issues this season.

I also don’t see the team putting a huge vote of confidence in Pickett and how they are building this offense around Pickett. The team has the desire to be a run-heavy offense despite the league being controlled by quick and potent passing offenses. A run-heavy offense can be effective, but I have doubts that this offense will be a top one in the NFL.

I also don’t understand why a team would be trying to build such a run-focused offense with Pickett if he was an elite passer like some claim that he is. If he were ready to lead this team as an elite franchise quarterback, they would have been focused on adding elite weapons instead of building out the running offense.

All of this doesn’t mean that Pickett is a failure at quarterback, but for a lower-ceiling, higher-floor prospect, there are still plenty of questions. I do not doubt that you can win with Pickett but being so focused on hiding him on this offense isn’t great on top of the questions that still remain.

I’ve said that since he was drafted that the worst-case scenario for Pickett was to become a middling starter. These guys can retain their jobs for a long time and get paid a lot of money, but their limitations hold back their effectiveness and the team’s ability to win key games. They stick around and get paid a lot of money, but your team doesn’t consistently compete.

There is a very real chance that Pickett becomes that type of a player, and his rookie season showed flashes of that. I’m not thrilled that the Steelers, in turn, have decided to build an offense with him, not as the focus. It makes me nervous that the Pickett may be more on the average path than the spectacular.

Early 53-man roster predictions for Pittsburgh Steelers. dark. Next

Now, anyone saying that Pickett is an inherent bust is outright wrong. He needs to showcase more in his second season for sure, but it is far too early to call it one way or another. That said, any media questioning him as a long-term answer is fine to do so right now, as Pickett has plenty of questions still heading into year two.