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Saunders: Steelers Showing Patience with Kenny Pickett, but for How Long?

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Steelers QB Kenny Pickett

PITTSBURGH — It’s still very early in the career of Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, but the saying goes that NFL stands for “Not For Long” as much as it stands for National Football League.

“This is not a patient man’s business.” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, exactly how impatient it can be shone through. New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson and Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills were both benched by their head coaches on Wednesday, a season and a half after being drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Jets are 6-4 and on the cusp of AFC playoff contention, while the Texans are 1-8-1 and in last place in the league. The teams are in vastly different places, and have vastly different needs going forward, and they probably made their decisions for different reasons, but they came to the same conclusion at roughly the same time: they ran out of patience with their rookie quarterback.

Wilson started 20 games before being benched. Mills played in 23 and started 21. Wilson had a 70.7 passer rating. Mills has an 84 passer rating. Pickett is in the middle at 71.8.

The message should be pretty loud and clear: If Pickett, who has played seven games — about a third of what the 2021 passers did of their benching — doesn’t improve, he’ll find someone else with his job sooner rather than later.

“It’s having high expectations, because you need to work every day to be where I want to be,” Pickett said. “It’s between me and myself, and showing up and being the same guy every day, coming ready to work.’

There have been improvements recently. Pickett has not thrown an interception in the last two games. Against the Cincinnati Bengals, he reduced his sack total from six in the previous two games to two. 

“He’s getting better in all areas,” Tomlin said. “ It’s moving in the direction that we would like it to. Sure, could it move faster? Absolutely. I don’t think anybody is patient, including Kenny.”

RELATED: Homistek: The Truth About Kenny Pickett Isn’t Fun

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