The Steelers are at a crossroads, and the calls to bench Kenny Pickett and fire Matt Canada have intensified significantly. It’s not hard to understand why when you look at any game Pittsburgh has played this season. Both have been better at times, but they continue to show cracks in the foundation of an already bad passing offense.
Canada falls short as an offensive coordinator. His route concepts make little sense and do not build off the team’s run game. He does not give his quarterback adequate answers to every coverage and look. Moreover, the utilization of specific personnel falls short. Canada has put the training wheels on Pickett in the last two weeks after his struggles, but you have to wonder if they are the correct set of wheels.
Pickett’s games can not be classified as game manager types or mediocre. He has been terrible over the last three weeks. Pittsburgh has to get some level of even below-average production. The bar is in the ground right now. Pickett is missing the layups, spinning into pressure, missing reads, and looks out of it. This is a quarterback playing with very little confidence. He has no rhythm or anticipation to his game.
In these contexts, the calls to bench Pickett make sense. But Kenny Pickett is a first-round quarterback the Steelers invested something into. You must understand what benching a guy like that means for your team. That’s mainly admitting the player’s failure, and it’s a sign to Pickett that no longer believes in him. But the bigger question I have for those wanting Pickett benched is this: What about long-term implications?
No, I’m not talking about rocking the boat and being scared. You need the next seven games to evaluate Pickett. Yes, that’s nearly half a football season. It’s a large enough sample size to draw meaningful conclusions with data and tape. You want as much tape on a developing quarterback as possible when you have a young quarterback. There is no doubt that Pickett’s tape is brutal. But you know what Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph are at this stage. There is no young player on the bench to turn to.
This point is to say that my argument has very little to do with what Pickett has done on the field. We all know he’s fallen short. The regression is there, and frustration is mounting. Pittsburgh has yet to see that complete game that reels you into seeing if he could be the guy. But the Steelers need as much tape as possible to make what they have at quarterback crystal clear.
General Manager Omar Khan and Assistant General Manager Andy Weidl need the complete set of tape and data to work within a large sample size. To me, the long-term outlook here is imperative. Pickett should play, if for nothing else, for a full evaluation of the player at hand. Then, in the offseason, the front office can make a comprehensive plan.
You can be sure that the coaching has hurt Pickett in some regards, and Canada is not the answer. He likely is on his way out after this season. But even in poorly coached offenses, Pickett has to do basic quarterback skills well. He is falling short of even the most basic expectations. But Pittsburgh needs to see more of what he can do from here on out to paint the full picture. That’s why benching him for some slight short-term gain makes little sense, even if Pickett’s play on the field leaves a lot to be desired.