Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett just delivered what you wanted.
Through six starts in the black and gold, Pickett posted a 2-4 record. Beyond the record, though, Pickett’s stats in those starts were… uninspiring.
Two-hundred-and-eighteen yards per game.
Five-point-eight-three yards per attempt.
All this left many wondering: What exactly did the Steelers spend that 2022 first-round draft pick on, again?
Monday night against the Colts in Indianapolis, Pickett answered that question.
It looked a little something like this:
— follow @dubs408 (@somedubvids) November 29, 2022
Kenny Pickett showing off his ELITE ball placement 😱 pic.twitter.com/5jBrh7aYXg
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) November 29, 2022
Oh, and he rushed for 32 yards, including a couple of first downs for good measure.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin noticed all this –– but there’s a catch.
Tomlin wasn’t exactly impressed. In fact, it felt like Tomlin expected Pickett to do what he did in leading the Steelers to a fourth-quarter, comeback win against the Colts on Monday Night Football.
“You guys ask me that every week,” Tomlin said in response to a prompt asking him to comment on Pickett’s development. “He’s getting better every week. And it’s in a very natural way because of experience. He’s a competitor. He’s smart.”
It feels like there’s a “but” here, coach…
“But it’s still a lot of meat on the bone, and it’s just the process,” Tomlin continued. “But like I always say, he’s good enough –– and we’re good enough –– to win while that happens, and so we’re not grading him or us on a curve. We acknowledge that he’s very much in development.
“You can ask me next week, and I’ll tell you he got better in all areas again next week, because with each snap [comes] exposure, and sharp guys, guys that are competitors, they grow from those things.”
There’s so much to unpack here, friends.
Let’s start with a simple comparison. Pickett, many hope, represents the Steelers’ next franchise quarterback after Ben Roethlisberger retired.
Through seven starts as a rookie:
- Roethlisberger: 105/151 (69.5%), 1,274 yards, 8.44 yards/attempt, nine touchdowns, four interceptions
- Pickett: 165/252 (65.5%), 1,480 yards, 5.9 yards/attempt, three touchdowns, five interceptions
There are too many variables at play to make a totally valid comparison, but let’s focus on the glaring difference: 151 passing attempts for Roethlisberger vs. 252 passing attempts for Pickett.
And then let’s rewind to Tomlin’s postgame commentary.
“… with each snap [comes] exposure, and sharp guys, guys that are competitors, they grow from those things.”
Tomlin and the Steelers know exactly what they’re doing with the young Kenny Pickett.
Many fans and media members alike felt Mitch Trubisky deserved a fairer shot as the Steelers’ starting quarterback. Indeed, Trubisky put up similar stats to Pickett as the Steelers starting quarterback and defeated the AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1.
Yet, the team shifted to Pickett midway through Week 4 and they haven’t looked back despite roughly identical results on the surface.
It’s because Tomlin and the Steelers see something else with Pickett.
They see the future –– and they want to get there ASAP.
Tomlin couldn’t contain a few chuckles when he offered the following after his team’s win at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“We have him [Pickett] in there because we think he’s capable of that [winning the game],” Tomlin said. “And so he proved it. I’m sure he’s going to get a lot of other opportunities *laughs* moving forward to prove that. We need people that run toward action, not away from it. And he runs toward it.”
It’s obvious to them. That fans and media are out here debating the topic is actually funny to Tomlin and the Steelers. They know what they see in Pickett. Even the players will corroborate.
Take it away, Mason Cole.
“Yeah, I think Kenny’s done a really good job all year just kind of playing through the ebbs and the flows of the game,” Cole said at his locker after the Steelers’ win over the Colts.
Maybe like… calling the eventual game-winning play?
Oh yes. Just like that.
With the Steelers trailing the Colts, 16-17, with the ball on the Colts’ two-yard line and 10 minutes to play in the game, Pickett dialed it up.
Handoff to Benny Snell. Touchdown.
You read that correctly. Pickett dialed it up.
Tell ’em again, Mr. Cole.
“That run we scored on, Kenny called it,” Cole said. “We were in the timeout, and Kenny said, ‘I wanna run this,’ and I was all for it because it was a run play, so obviously I was for it. But to see that confidence on third-and-two on the goal line is big.
“It’s good to see, it’s exciting to see, and just to show who he is as a leader, and the command he has on the field, it’s really cool.”
That from Cole is pretty encouraging.
But it gets even better when you hear Pickett himself talk about it.
“Yeah, Coach T puts a lot of confidence in myself, just asking me what I like, what I don’t like,” Pickett said at the podium in Indianapolis. “I feel like that play, just watching from tape all week, [it’s a] simple play, but it’s something I feel like other teams weren’t doing and I think if we’d have given it a shot, I think we’d have been successful.
“We were in four-down territory, you know, so we were going to go for it again on the next play if we didn’t get it. But I felt real confident with that play and real happy that we got in the endzone.”
He’s not perfect. He sails passes. He misses open receivers. He takes ill-timed sacks.
But Kenny Pickett is learning. That much is clear after the Steelers registered their fourth win of the season against the Colts.
And he’s slowly becoming that first-round pick the Steelers envisioned when they rang his cell phone on April 28, 2022.