Farabaugh: Kenny Pickett’s Training Camp Growth Encouraging
Kenny Pickett was terrible the first week of Steelers training camp. Seriously, there was no sugarcoating that fact. When it came down to it, Pickett did not look like an NFL quarterback that week with the third-team offense. Part of it was the third-team offensive line, but another part of it felt like Pickett had the wheels in his head spinning just a little bit too much. Still, a rookie’s first week of training camp is nothing to overreact about, good or bad. That is why it was easy to say to keep calm about Pickett.
Since then, a lot has happened. The Steelers and Pickett have played a preseason game. And they spent three more weeks down in Latrobe getting ready for the regular season. Even more, however, Pickett himself has changed. It started the week after a bad week one when Pickett put up a very strong week of practice. It has continued throughout training camp as well. By the time camp concluded on Thursday, Pickett looked like he belonged with the second team.
His preseason performance was about as encouraging as it could be, too. Pickett made a key throw to win the game for the Steelers. In that game, it appeared that Pickett was simply dialed in and feeling it. That was a very similar player to the one who flashed during his time at Pitt. That was what people were waiting to see, myself included. Throughout the rest of training camp, it seemed like the ball just kept rolling for Pickett down the hill.
Mike Tomlin had expectations for Pickett coming into the training camp session. It was undeniable that Pickett was supposed to grow. But how much was he supposed to grow? Just how good was he supposed to look? Maybe, it would be reasonable to say this growth was expected. To a degree, Tomlin at least expected it.
“With each passing day, guys get better with exposure,” Tomlin said. “So, I don’t want to overstate it. The maturation and developmental process are happening at the rate that it should. We have been pleased with the progress, certainly.”
I don’t want to overstate things on this side either, but that growth is encouraging. It’s the fact that Pickett feels comfortable enough now to push the ball down the field with consistency. More than that, he is able to feel out the pocket to use his legs to pop off with his playmaking ability out of structure. So, the Pickett comfortability makes sense in a lot of ways, but that does mean it is not encouraging, either.
Has Pickett been the best quarterback at training camp? No, I would venture to say that goes to Mitch Trubisky. Pickett is still developing and he has his hiccups. However, the Kenny Pickett that is playing now is a far cry from what he was three weeks ago. That’s the very important part of Pickett.
Saturday will be his biggest test yet. He aced his first test. Now, the second, more rigorous exam is in store. It will test out just how good Pickett actually has become at this juncture. Regardless of what happens in Duval County, the Steelers should be able to take solace in what they know they have seen from Pickett. That is growth, toughness, and a gamer mentality.
Kenny Pickett was drafted in the first round by the Steelers for a reason. They liked his playmaking ability, moxie, the guaranteed floor, and the continued growth he displayed throughout his college career. That continued growth is now popping itself up in the NFL again. If history is any indicator, the more confident Pickett gets, the better he is.