Things would have to go drastically wrong for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second half of the season to garner a top-5 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. It would also suggest that Kenny Pickett hasn’t shown improvement from his early struggles. Through four starts, Pickett ranks 35th in the NFL with a 66.8 passer rating and is tied for second-most in interceptions with eight. Pickett has also thrown just two touchdown passes.
Pickett is just a rookie, but he’s also 24 years old. He’s older than Jalen Hurts. Justin Herbert is only three months older than Pickett. The Steelers need Pickett to showcase some upside and potential in these next nine games. If not, the Steelers might just have to draft a quarterback in the first round again, especially if it’s a top-5 pick.
Bob Labriola of Steelers.com believes picking a quarterback 20th overall and then using a top-5 pick in the very next draft on another quarterback would be the football version of malpractice. It’s definitely not ideal, but it’s happened before. The Arizona Cardinals did it with Josh Rosen and Kyler Murray.
Former Steelers free safety and ESPN analyst Ryan Clark cited the Cardinals situation and thinks drafting a quarterback should be on the table for the Steelers if they have a high draft pick.
“You never know where they might be in this draft, and this is going to be a quarterback-rich draft in which the last one wasn’t,” Clark said. “Just because we drafted you last year, doesn’t mean we have to keep you, and you can look no further than the Arizona Cardinals drafting Kyler Murray one year after drafting Josh Rosen.”
Mel Kiper of ESPN currently has three quarterback prospects in the top-5 on his big board — C.J. Stroud of Ohio State, Will Levis of Kentucky and Bryce Young of Alabama. The 2023 quarterback draft class is considered to be far more talented than the crop of quarterbacks in 2022. With the Steelers selecting Pickett at 20th overall, he became the latest first-round quarterback drafted since 1997. That says a ton about the 2022 quarterback class.
Matt Canada has certainly struggled as a play-caller, but the offensive woes are not all just on him. Former Steelers nose tackle Chris Hoke outlined this on 93.7 The Fan on Thursday.
“You go back and watch that film, everybody can say what they want. Guys are open. Kenny’s not seeing them. Kenny missed throws. Third-and-10 he has Pat Freiermuth open for a 1st down & he sails the ball. Is that on Matt Canada?” Hoke said.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk thinks it’s too early to discuss the Steelers drafting another quarterback in the first round, but at the same time, he doesn’t think you can rule out anything at this point.
Pickett is a fan favorite since he starred at Pitt. Chants of “Kenny, Kenny!” at Acrsiure Stadium were rampant until Mitch Trubisky was benched. The honeymoon could be over if Pickett shows no signs of improvement or development in the second half of the season, however. The Steelers will have to do what’s best for business, and Pickett being QB1 might not be it.