I remember exactly what I was doing when the Pittsburgh Steelers were on the clock in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Waiting on standby to go live on the 'Stacking The Box' Podcast, we learned of the selection a few minutes before commissioner Roger Goodell announced the pick on stage. In one of his final moves as general manager, Kevin Colbert went with Pitt QB Kenny Pickett.
I had a hard time holding back my frustration with the selection and I vented my thoughts on the live show. After countless hours of film study on the 2022 quarterback class, I thought the right answer was not to draft a signal-caller in 2022. Instead, the Steelers stood pat and ran their card to the podium to take Pickett.
When I finalized my draft board, Pickett was the 48th overall player in my rankings for the 2022 NFL Draft. At the time, I received criticism for being too low on him when the consensus was much higher. Unfortunately, my original assessment of the Pitt quarterback might be correct.
Following a promising end to his rookie season and a spectacular preseason showing in 2023, fans had very high hopes for Kenny Pickett in Year 2. Unfortunately, things couldn't be going much worse for the Steelers quarterback right now.
Pittsburgh somehow was able to squeak out a 3-2 record by the time the bye week rolled around, but it was in spite of Pickett; not because of him that they were winning football games. Advanced stats from ESPN show that Pickett has been one of the least efficient quarterbacks in the NFL this year.
The data we have so far on Pickett in 2022 is endless, and it doesn't really matter which outlet you use for stats or advanced metrics -- they all show just how bad Pickett has been this year.
PlayerProfiler.com breaks down different advanced statistics that still tell a very similar story. When it comes to true completion percentage adjusted yards, or throwing from a clean pocket, Pickett has been one of the least efficient quarterbacks in the league entering Week 6.
While we would like to blame offensive coordinator Matt Canada for all of the offensive struggles, Pickett needs to shoulder a good bit of blame for his dreadful performance thus far. The ugly truth is that Pittsburgh's 2023 season could be in jeopardy if he doesn't make massive strides soon.
How can Kenny Pickett improve down the stretch?
We now have exactly a one-season sample size of playing experience when it comes to Pickett -- dating back to his rookie season last year. Pickett has started 17 games in his NFL career and has earned a more-than-respectable record of 10-7.
However, it's hard to say that Pickett should take credit for these wins. His best play came down the stretch against an easy schedule late in the 2022 season. Sadly, his play has gone downhill from last year. Pickett has still made some careless decisions with the football early in the season and he has been downright inaccurate at times.
One of the biggest issues has been his inability to hang tough in the pocket. At the first sign of pressure, Pickett is quick to bail -- causing him to miss open receivers down the field. This case of the jitters no doubt has to do with the poor play of the offensive line, but he needs to gain this confidence back.
Obviously, a change at offensive coordinator could certainly help, as very few of Canada's plays are engineered to get receivers in space and create yards after the catch. However, Mike Tomlin made it clear that there isn't going to be an OC change at this juncture.
After watching the all-22 film for each game, more than anything else, Pickett simply needs to see the field better and go through his progressions -- essentially, getting back to the basics. If he can do this at a much higher level, there is hope to salvage the season.
With how he is currently playing, however, the Pittsburgh Steelers might be good enough to get to a winning record, but this team won't threaten anyone if they do make it to the playoffs. Kenny Pickett's ineptitude at quarterback can truly cap the upside of this offense, and without major changes following the bye week, the Steelers' 2023 season could be in jeopardy.