The Pittsburgh Steelers will move forward with Kenny Pickett and likely either retain Mason Rudolph or add two new players to that room. But among top quarterbacks in the NFL, two traits keep showing up as important, even with the change in quarterback styles over the years. The Super Bowl between Patrick Mahomes and Brock Purdy only emphasized it more.
Patrick Mahomes is an alien. Brock Purdy isn’t. But there are two things in common that I see between them that I want to point to when we talk about the Steelers’ quarterback discourse. One, the way they win most routinely, is from the pocket. Yes, the highlight reel, background football stuff that Mahomes does is unique and important, but if you can not win in-strucutre, you’re doomed. You have to hit the reads, the easy stuff, what is given to you and drawn up in the pocket before we talk about the flashy, out-of-structure stuff. Purdy wins with great anticipation and timing, and Mahomes has just as much of that. This was the difference between Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph last year.
Second, mobility is essential. You should be able to get out of structure, but more than that, just having the ability to run and punish defenses for playing man coverage is huge. Mahomes thrived off it, and Purdy made several plays taking advantage of his mobility, too. You don’t need to be Lamar Jackson, but being able to scamper for six or seven yards functionally is key in staying ahead of the sticks or changing the short-yardage game.
It’s these two traits that the Steelers should be looking for in the new quarterbacks they vet. Pickett has one of the traits, the second one in late he can scramble selectively to get those tough yards. He does not have an arm talent like Mahomes, but the difference between him and Purdy to this point in their careers is winning in-structure. Make no mistake, if Pickett is going to take that next step, it will be about winning in the pocket. That’s the part of his game that the team should drill home moving forward if it is at all going to work.
Pickett will never have Mahomes, Justin Herbert, or Josh Allen, but if he can have anticipation and find the right guy consistently, the Steelers can work with what Pickett has. If not, they need to find someone who has those traits that can at least give them a clear floor.