UNITY TWP., Pa. — Do not worry about Kenny Pickett at Steelers camp. If Thursday is any indication, the growth and maturation of the rookie quarterback could be happening right in front of everyone’s eyes in Latrobe. Pickett’s growth has actually been somewhat linear to this point after an extremely rough first week of practice. Now, he is putting together a solid week into the beginning of August.
Pickett zipped balls all over the field on Thursday which was impressive. Is his arm strength ever going to be elite? Probably not. Still, Pickett’s got just enough arm strength to make some real magic happen. On Thursday, it seemed like he was dialed in on another level. Up to this point in his career, this is likely the best practice of Pickett’s young NFL career.
What does that actually mean for Kenny Pickett? Well, when he inevitably ends up getting some more second-team reps and even first-team reps, he is going to be even more prepped for them. Remember, Pickett ran exclusively with the third team Thursday. This was behind the same offensive line that was not good every other time he stepped back there. That never changed today, the protection for Pickett was rough.
His best throw of the day may have been the very first he threw. Of a play-action fake with pressure bearing down on him from two sides, Pickett stepped up in the pocket and found an open Cody White on the back pylon in the end zone. He dropped it right over two defenders and only where White could make the toe-tapping grab. That throw was a sign of things to come.
In the first team period, Pickett did little that was flashy. He hit Conner Heyward in the flat after going through three reads and then anticipated Anthony Miller opening up on a curl route. Later in another team session, Pickett would hit Miller behind the linebackers on a dig route. The middle of the field seems to be a haven of sorts for Pickett and his ball placement today was special.
At one point in the practice, Pickett hit Heyward on a gorgeous back shoulder fade that Heyward skied over Damontae Kazee to grab in. It was about 20 yards down the field, and Pickett hit him outside the numbers. Later in a similar vein, Pickett threw a gorgeous 35-yard pass to Jace Sternberger. It was only in one-on-ones but those throws were as pretty as any on the day in Latrobe.
The biggest highlight for Pickett was in the 7-on-7 drills. He knew it was a middle-of-the-field open coverage, but Pickett had to hold Tre Norwood in order to hit Miles Boykin on a skinny post. That is exactly what Pickett ended up doing. He used his eyes to manipulate the play. The Steelers had to be impressed by what they saw out of Pickett not just on that play, but throughout the day.
If Pickett even comes close to this performance in the upcoming days, the Steelers have a dilemma. If Trubisky is to be the likely starter, Pickett’s performances on days like Thursday could throw a wrench in that plan.
More to come….