PITTSBURGH — Heading into this season, the promise for Kenny Pickett was all there. He had an excellent preseason and training camp, and all the reports had him trending up. He even played some good football down the stretch of the 2022 season. Most of this hype was not contrived out of thin air. The stats did not back it all up, but Pickett’s tape was solid down the stretch. But it has not translated into the year. This has been a slog.
With Pickett now sidelined for two to four weeks after ankle surgery, it’s hard for me to tell you what they should do this offseason. Firing Matt Canada was supposed to spark the offense and give them a chance to see what Pickett could do without him. That small sample size got even tinier now. And Pickett has not shown enough flashes of being the guy to earn unquestioned starter status heading into year three. That stinks, but it’s the fact of the matter.
His blitz identification continues to be poor. Pickett misses open reads too often, and his pocket presence remains as jittery as ever. He has moments where the flashes pop out to you, but nothing consistently throughout the games to show he is a bonafide franchise quarterback.
This is where I come down at some point. The Steelers are struggling offensively. At some point, the quarterback has to make a play to spark them. But Pickett is so inconsistent that it’s tough to rely upon. Then, there is the worrying health history growing with him, too. The Steelers will be at a crossroads this offseason with their quarterback. But they’ll need some insurance.
Again, Kenny Pickett is not the only problem. Whenever Canada got fired, the small strides were more important than anything. Also, I saw everyone posting those Jake Browning vs. Pickett stats last night after the Bengals’ big win. That’s fun for the engagement, but in a better environment, I think it’s short-sighted to believe Pickett could not have explosive, massive games.
There’s a lot of bad-faith discourse around Pickett. You either acknowledge him as the next franchise quarterback or think he should be out of the NFL. But the answer falls in the middle, as it usually does in that situation. Pickett has been handed a terrible problem with coaching malpractice. He has also not shown nearly enough to warrant franchise quarterback consideration.
That’s the harsh truth the Steelers have to face. It’s not that Pickett is not outright the answer; sometimes, guys take longer to develop. Crazy things like this happen. But there’s not enough tape and flashes to buy into another year of unquestioned starter football for him. And if the right opportunities arise, this defense is ready to win now, and the Steelers should not be discouraged from making an aggressive move if they see fit.
Pickett has times where he makes the great throw. His deep ball is pretty good. Pickett takes care of the football. But the consistency throughout his career and the inability to stack complete games is a massive concern that can’t be ignored. Pittsburgh has to have other options, and they can do that while still supporting Pickett. And if they hope that he can become a franchise quarterback while still trying to win games, that’s their best approach.