Year two will be the all important year for Kenny Pickett, but looking back on his rookie year, there are some questions to still be had about Pickett and where he heads from here in the Steelers offense. However, there is one part of his game that seems undeniable at this point.
That part of his game would be the out of structure ability. So, when PFF went into a deep dive on Pickett before his second season, that was the one thing that stuck out in spades. From the time he took over the offense, he ranked 1st in the NFL with a 91.9 PFF grade on scramble drills. In general, he was 3rd in the NFL in PFF grade outside the pocket with a 72.6 passing grade.
“After Week 4, his first NFL game, Pickett’s passing grade on “scramble drills” was 91.9, the highest grade of any quarterback in the NFL during that time,” analyst Nick Akridge said. “The play was never over in his mind, and he did a great job of keeping his eyes up, always looking for his receivers.”
There are other stats in that article that are concerning for Pickett, such as his time to throw and his ability to work inside the pocket. But quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan already talked about improving that area of Pickett’s game. It is the main focus that Pickett and the Steelers staff have had heading into his second year.
“There’s that ability to extend, but the next component is climbing in the pocket or going 45 degrees left or right but staying in the pocket,” Sullivan said. “There’s still enough time to go out there, buy time, and see the read, but it doesn’t warrant you having to leave the pocket. We took a look at other people, other offenses, and what they do. We’re working that out here on the field. It’s been pleasing for us to see the improvement in those areas from Kenny.”
We will see where Pickett falls along this line, but he will have to continue to play some backyard football when it calls for it while understanding how to stick in the pocket and make plays with just his eyes and arm. That is naturally the next step in his progression towards becoming the franchise QB of the Steelers.