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Steelers Camp Takeaways: Pickett Flashes, Pickens Dominates (+)



Steelers Camp Kenny Pickett

UNITY TWP., Pa. — Steelers camp on Wednesday took an early detour with potential inclement weather abound. That was something that has been a common theme for the Steelers, and during practice the elements showcased themselves. But two rookies in Kenny Pickett and George Pickens rose above the elements to put up days that would impress anyone.

It was an explosive play show all day long from Pickett and Pickens. Somehow, the two men did it completely separately from each other. For Pickens, it was the continuation of what has been a dominant camp. With Pickett, it was a bounce-back day from what was one of the rougher outings of his Steelers camp tenure. Mitch Trubisky flashed on Tuesday, but it was Pickett’s turn to return the favor on Wednesday.

Pickett flashed the playmaking ability he is known for. On one play, Pickett outran a pursuing Tuzar Skipper to his right and kept his eyes downfield. By the end of it, he found Miles Boykin 15 yards downfield for a bullet on the run. On another play, Pickett rolled out to his left and found Steven Sims on a back shoulder throw 20 yards down the field. Pickett at his best is a creator and he proved that on Wednesday.

The explosive plays from Pickett at Steelers camp have been plentiful. In 7-on-7 drills, Pickett threw the ball over 40 air yards and hit Tyler Snead in stride for a touchdown. On another play, Pickett aired out a gorgeous pass in team drills to Javon McKinley on a back shoulder fade for 35 yards. Pickett threw multiple good passes to Calvin Austin III, though Austin dropped a fantastic 30-yard ball that was dropped in his bucket.

Simply put, Pickett was great and created multiple explosive plays in and out of structure. He still can run himself into pressure at times by trying to escape out the backdoor instead of taking what is in his pocket for him. If there was one thing to knock Pickett on today, that would be it. However, his team sessions were crisp, cool, and collected. He was the best quarterback on the field.

Meanwhile, Pickens was easily the best wide receiver on the field. It started in one-on-ones, where Pickens beat Ahkello Witherspoon off the line of scrimmage and made an easy catch 35 yards downfield from Mitch Trubisky. Later in another team period, Pickens skied above everyone to make an acrobatic catch over the middle of the field. It seemed like anything Pickens could do, he did.

Both of these guys shined in a different way during the two-minute drills. But they both took over their respective drives. Pickens was first and working with Mason Rudolph. Rudolph threw a great ball down the sideline and Pickens toe-tapped it for 37 yards. It was all created by Pickens’ subtle late hands at the end of the catch. Then, Pickens caught an unbelievable touchdown over Levi Wallace by juggling the ball, tipping it to himself with one hand, and somehow keeping both feet in for a touchdown. Pickens’s teammates were easily impressed by him and his day.

“He’s good, man, and I think he doesn’t even know it yet,” safety Karl Joseph said. “He might, though, as much as he talks. (Laughs). Being around guys like Diontae that have developed certain skillsets that he can learn from, guys like Chase and stuff, he’s got a good group around him and he’s got crazy ability. He’s been showing it. I just hope that translates to the regular season, too.”

As for Pickett’s drive, it was efficient and easy. In two plays, Pickett drove the team 60 yards for a touchdown. In his first play, he found a wide-open Jaylen Warren who took it 40 yards. Then, in the next play, Pickett fired a bullet up the seam on a post route to an open Steven Sims. It stole Rudolph’s thunder, and Pickett looked all the better for it.

“You roll the ball out there and you challenge competitors to compete,” Mike Tomlin said of the two-minute drill. “And if people are tired of getting their butts kicked, then they start kicking a little butt of their own.”

If this is any indication of the early returns from the Steelers’ 2022 draft class, those returns already look fantastic.

Seven Shots

Well, the seven-shots period was the polar opposite of what happened throughout the rest of this Steelers camp practice. While there were no pads on, the defense took seven shots, much as they have for much of training camp. In fact, it was only one quarterback who rose above the rest in order to get some success, and that was Rudolph.

🏈: Trubisky was in the shotgun with three wide receivers and Anthony McFarland split out wide. He tried to stay in the pocket to find anybody, but the coverage across the board was fantastic. Trubisky scrambles out and lofts it to Anthony Miller near the sideline but Ahkello Witherspoon is there to break it up. 1-0, defense.

🏈: Pat Freiermuth enters the game and Trubisky immediately looks for him on a contested catch opportunity. However, both Minkah Fitzpatrick and Karl Joseph are there to break it up. Joseph nearly gets the interception. 2-0, defense.

🏈: Trubisky is trying to hit his tight ends again, and this one is in 12 personnel. Connor Heyward runs a steam route heading right in front of the goal post. Still, the trailing Robert Spillane nearly jumps it for an interception on a dangerous throw by Trubisky. 3-0, defense.

🏈: Calvin Austin works out of the slot and beats Arthur Maulet. However, Trubisky sails the corner route too far past the back pylon for an incomplete pass as Trubisky is shut out. 4-0, defense.

🏈: Rudolph enters the game. Immediately, Rudolph notices that Miles Boykin is in one-on-one with Levi Wallace. Rudolph gives Boykin a chance, and in the back corner of the end zone, Rudolph makes a toe-tapping, one-handed catch to get the touchdown. 4-1, defense.

🏈: Rudolph motions Cody White across the formation to make it a 3×1 formation with White aligned to the strong side. Immediately, Rudolph gets rid of it for White on a stick route in the front of the end zone as he catches it for a touchdown. 4-2, defense.

🏈: Pickett enters the game. It is the same play that Rudolph ran to White, but with 12 personnel. Jace Sternberger runs the stick route and Pickett tries to hit him, but Mark Robinson is in the hip pocket and bats it away.

The defense continues to dominate this drill at Steelers camp. Rudolph’s showing in seven shots is the big victory for him on what was a pretty good day for him overall. Meanwhile, Trubisky was shut out on what was one of the rougher days in training camp resume.

Delontae Scott Impresses

Training camp sleepers always fly under the radar, but the Steelers always seem to have one outside linebacker who does something of note in each training camp. This year, that guy is Delontae Scott. In all team drills, Scott continues to flash. He blew up a jet sweep to Steven Sims. Then, he nearly caused an interception on a tunnel screen. His ability to get in passing lanes has been something that has been prevalent in the entirety of training camp.

Meanwhile, the fight for the outside linebacker spots has only intensified. Scott will need to showcase his special teams’ ability to make the roster, but with Genard Avery’s injury, the door is open somewhat here. Scott’s flashes in each and every practice will make sure that the Steelers coaching staff will keep him on their mind.

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