Kenny Pickett is coming off one of the most remarkable preseason performances you will ever see from a second-year quarterback. Though his opportunities were limited to first-team work very early in the three exhibition contests this year, he grabbed the NFL by the horns with what he was able to accomplish during the 2023 preseason.
Pickett finished the summer completing 13 of 15 passes for 199 yards with 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. This spectacular showing equated to a perfect 158.3 passer rating and an overall grade of 94.7, according to Pro Football Focus -- the highest of the 2023 preseason.
But don't let this sudden surge of dominance during the preseason raise the bar too high for Pickett in 2023. While the Steelers signal-caller was arguably the most impressive player during exhibition action this year, he might not have the dominant statistical production fans are hoping for.
Prior to the start of the 2023 season, I have taken a stab at predicting the stat line Kenny Pickett will produce. This estimate assumes that Pickett will play a 17-game season.
Steelers stat projections 2023: QB Kenny Pickett
- 335 of 499 pass attempts
- 3,815 passing yards
- 23 touchdowns
- 12 interceptions
- 67.1% completion
- 7.6 yards per attempt
- 66 rushes
- 325 yards
- 4.9 yards per rush attempt
- 4 rushing touchdowns
I know this doesn't exactly look like the MVP-caliber season optimistic Steelers fans are hoping for, but that's okay. A stat line like the one above would still be more than enough to make Pittsburgh a competitive team in 2023.
If you recall, Pickett had just 7 touchdowns and 9 interceptions with 2,404 passing yards in 13 games played last year. This equated to a passer rating of just 76.7 to go with 6.2 yards per attempt. Admittedly, many of these interceptions weren't his fault.
Still, my 2023 projections for Pickett would prove to be a substantial upgrade over what we saw from him as a rookie. I am a bit more optimistic than others. ESPN projects that Pickett will have even fewer touchdowns and passing yards this season.
Vegas oddsmakers aren't buying Kenny Pickett at all right now. Ahead of the season, Pickett's over/under for passing touchdowns in 2023 is set at just 18.5, courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook. This seems like an unreasonably low number if Pickett stays on the field for 17 games (and a bet that is worth putting some money on the over).
My projections are much more on the optimistic side, but I still err on the side of caution. For a team that plans to run the ball as much as the Steelers in 2023, it's not reasonable to project that he will have upwards of 4,300 passing yards or nearly 30 passing touchdowns. As good as he looked in the preseason, his opportunities in the passing game may be more limited than that.
Despite the fact that Kenny Pickett is overflowing with confidence right now and had an excellent summer, you may need to temper expectations for the second-year quarterback just a bit. If he can perform as well as the stat line that I projected for him this year, the Pittsburgh Steelers should be able to make a strong push for the playoffs in 2023.