After the unmitigated disaster that Kenny Pickett put on display in Week 1, Steelers fans desperately needed to see him bounce back against their AFC North rival Browns. The Browns' defense completely dismantled Joe Burrow and the Bengals in their 24-3 season opener, so he had his work cut out for him. How did he fare? Well… it’s complicated.
Before we get into Kenny’s performance, let me preface the entire analysis with this: No QB could play well under the circumstances that the Steelers offense finds itself in. Not to say that he has played well individually, because he hasn’t. The bottom line is that until a change is made at play caller, this offense will continue to underperform regardless of how well the players play. That being said, let’s dive into Pickett’s performance against Cleveland.
Kenny Pickett does his best Phantom’s Revenge impression against Browns
Let’s start with the positive: Pickett completed five passes that gained 15 yards or more and had a respectable 7.4 yards per attempt after averaging just 5.0 a week ago. A lot of those yards were after the catch, but that’s a good thing. This offense under Matt Canada has been dreadful at creating yards, so it was nice to see.
The biggest play of course was the 71-yard touchdown to George Pickens. Even though he was wide open, Pickett did an excellent job getting through his reads and delivering an accurate pass despite getting blasted by Browns defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. The Pickett-to-Pickens connection had their most productive day as well, with Pickens racking up 127 yards on just four catches.
As great as all that was to see, the bad still overshadowed the good. Pickett finished just 15 of 30 on the day, and many of his incompletions were true missed passes. He was inaccurate in almost every way, sometimes too short, behind, or past the receiver. He still looked like the rattled, uncomfortable player the 49ers took advantage of in Week 1.
Even his only interception was a bad read, failing to identify safety Grant Delpit breaking on a slant by Pickens. Luckily the Browns missed their field goal so no points were scored off of it, but it was yet another mistake that this offense can’t afford. It seems like he can’t string two good plays together, and until he does his rollercoaster play will make things difficult for the offense.
At the end of the day, Pickett made more winning plays in this game than he did in Week 1. Even so, he has yet to play as well as he did at the end of his rookie season. Until he gets to, and then surpasses, that level of play the offense will continue to struggle. Fans were right to boo the offense, and even Mike Tomlin seems to understand. These next two weeks against the Texans and Raiders will be good chances to build some confidence.