Steelers: Kenny Pickett is expected to have a stellar sophomore season

Pittsburgh Steelers v Philadelphia Eagles
Pittsburgh Steelers v Philadelphia Eagles / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages

Becoming an NFL quarterback is difficult. Adjusting to the play calling, personnel, fanbase, and game speed is a lot for incoming quarterbacks to handle. In 2022, the Pittsburgh Steelers faced the reality that their franchise quarterback was retiring from the gridiron.

A consistent career from Ben Roethlisberger kept thoughts of developing a young quarterback away from the minds of the staff for 18 seasons. At 39 years old, Roethlisberger decided to hang up his cleats for good - opening the door for a new gunslinger to take the reins.

The search for a new leader under center sent Pittsburgh's front office into a frenzy. For the first time since 2004, Pittsburgh had to evaluate the incoming class of quarterbacks. Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder, and Matt Corral were some of the top prospects in the draft class, but Pittsburgh decided to move in a different direction. With the 20th pick in the draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Kenny Pickett - a strong-armed quarterback from the University of Pittsburgh.

Steelers relied on Kenny Pickett during a roller-coaster rookie campaign

Pickett did not win the initial quarterback battle, but that did not stop him from developing under center. While Mitchell Trubisky started the first few games of the season, the Pittsburgh rookie studied film and devoted himself to the offense. When it was time for the rookie to shine, he did so in a convincing fashion.

On Sunday, Oct.16, Pickett led his teammates to a 20-18 win against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. A home win helped fans in Pittsburgh become at ease with the quarterback transition. Kenny Pickett finished the evening with a touchdown pass and no turnovers - an easy recipe for winning close games.

Growing pains were easy to overlook as the season progressed. Losses against the Dolphins, Eagles, and Bengals were a tough pill to swallow for a fanbase accustomed to winning traditions. Gutsy performances from No.8 against the Falcons, Raiders, Colts, and Ravens spoon-fed faith to the Steel Curtain community.

It was clear that Pittsburgh's rookie quarterback became more acclimated with the offense as the season progressed. His decision-making improved tremendously and his chemistry with his wide receivers resulted in big plays.

Steelers will have the right pieces around Pickett for an impressive Sophomore Season

When Pittsburgh's season seemed lackluster, Kenny Pickett's leadership was a spark for the team. With his help, Mike Tomlin's team finished the season with a winning record - adding momentum for the upcoming season. At the end of his rookie campaign, Pickett ranked 24th in passing yards (2,404), and 20th in quarterback rating (51.5).

Pittsburgh's rookie quarterback's stat line did not jump off the page, but his performances helped were enough to secure victories. As Steelers fans welcome the upcoming season, they do so with excitement concerning the development of their franchise gunslinger. A few free-agency singings like G Nate Herbig should help No.8 improve. Defensive additions like CB Patrick Peterson, LB Cole Holcomb, and Elandon Roberts will help Terryl Austin's defense keep pressure off their developing offense.

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The anticipation for the upcoming season is high this season for members of the Steelers Nation. The uncertainty at the quarterback position is non-existent, and players around in the locker room have bought into the franchise's new direction. Kenny Pickett is the future for the black and gold and will have a great sophomore season to prove it.