A year ago, many people wondered if Kenny Pickett hand the hands that would allow him to throw the deeper and more precise passes that are needed from an NFL quarterback. Fast forward a year and many are still uncertain of Pickett’s potential or ceiling as a quarterback but according to one metric the Pittsburgh Steelers are in good hands.
Pro Football Focus ranked all 32 NFL starting quarterbacks based on their PFF grades for deep passing performances in 2022 and listed Kenny Pickett at No. 6 in the rankings.
“Everybody wants explosive plays in the NFL. The league has known that for as far back as anybody can remember, and in today’s game, the most reliable way of producing them is by throwing the ball deep,” wrote Lauren Gray of PFF.
Despite limited playing time and subpar offensive game plans, Pickett had a 92.2 passing grade when throwing the ball deep down the field in 2022. This ranked sixth in the entire league behind Patrick Mahomes, Tua Tagovailoa, Tom Brady, Joe Burrow, and Geno Smith.
“Pickett was solid in his first season,” wrote Gray. “He threw five interceptions (tied for fourth most) but recorded a 4.3% turnover-worthy play rate (eight-best). Most encouraging was his 31.9% big-time throw rate (11th). With George Pickens leading the way, these two should become a formidable combination in 2023.
In the 2022 season, Pickett recorded 477 deep passing yards and four deep passing touchdowns while completing 38.3% of his deep passes. On passes thrown 21 yards or further down the field, Pickett completed 57.5% of his passes which ranked second behind only Geno Smith. Much of that came within the 21 to 30-yard range, where he completed 67.9% of his passes.
While Pickett did not produce eye-popping numbers in his rookie season, another year in the Steelers’ system should allow Pickett to increase those numbers in 2023. With Pickett’s strong play at the end of last season coupled with the additions of Broderick Jones, Allen Robinson, and Calvin Austin, the Steelers offense has the potential to evolve into something special in 2023.