PITTSBURGH — Let Kenny Pickett cook? The Steelers might be letting him do just that at the line of scrimmage. Last year, it was little secret that as a rookie, Pickett went along with basically every play called and did little checking at the line aside from changing protections. But this year, the team has put more on his plate. So, the question was always, was he free to change the plays at the line of scrimmage?
On Thursday, offensive coordinator Matt Canada revealed that Kenny Pickett can change plays at the line if he wants to do that. So, in his second year, he does have more freedom to do as he wishes on the football field. That is something he earned going into his second year.
“Kenny’s got quite a bit of freedom to do things and get us where he wants to go,” Canada said. “You know, Kenny’s been very involved in the offense and what we’re doing, but at no point has this fallen on Kenny. It falls on all of us and we, as a staff, we’ve gotta put him in a position to make plays. We’ve got to make him feel good about the plays and making plays. We have to get players around him that help him make plays.”
Canada did reveal that the team could look to run some more play action given the success they had off those concepts against Cleveland. Some of those checks might include diving more into that play-action game with Kenny Pickett and the offense. Until then, however, the offense looks stagnant on film, both at a schematic and execution level.
“I don’t think it’s a crutch but I think play action is something, you know as you get the run game going more and more, it becomes effective,” Canada said. “That’s something that becomes more and more of a real situation. So, that was a play that we had a chance to get off and run. Kenny read it out perfectly to get it to get from Pat to GP, GP made the run, so there’s some things there. I don’t think our protection was bad on some of those play actions and we took some shots. I mentioned the corners are pretty good. We’ll do everything we can to move the football and get us an offense that’s balanced and doing the things we want to do. We’ve got to get there. We need to get to that point.”
Pickett had some success off play action in college, notching an impressive 16-2 TD/INT ratio in his breakout senior season. Play action has long been considered training wheels for young quarterbacks looking to find their way in the league. When executed correctly, it can stress defenses, particularly at the second level, and increase efficiency through the air.
Canada is fitting that the team needs to reach a balanced point, but you don’t need to have the run game rolling for play action to work. The Steelers run so much out of similar looks that they can get away without a run game at points, and that is what Monday showed. Teams are fully keyed into the run game, and it appears that Canada called up some of those play-action plays to work off the run game, even if it is not working. Play action is not a cure-all, but it could help take some of the load off the Pickett and the Steelers offense in general.