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Steelers Analysis

Farabaugh: Steelers Need to Face the Cold Hard Truth on Kenny Pickett



Steelers QB Kenny Pcikett
Steelers QB Kenny Pickett runs against the Cleveland Browns, Nov. 19, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

CLEVELAND — It’s time to have an uncomfortable conversation. Kenny Pickett was drafted to Pittsburgh’s quarterback of the future, but so far, he has looked anything but that in 2023. The Steelers’ passing offense continues to be in disarray, and no fix is in sight. Changes have to be made to win more games, but the bigger storyline of this entire season was to evaluate just how good Pickett was at the NFL level.

The answer Pittsburgh has received so far? He’s not good enough. Before I dive into the whole soliloquy about Pickett, let me acknowledge his circumstances are not ideal. He has solid weapons around him, but they are highly volatile weapons. Diontae Johnson can be a Pro Bowler or unplayable. George Pickens is a great player. The two running backs, Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren, combine for a solid duo.

Steelers WRs

The Steelers WRs line up against the Cleveland Browns, Nov. 19, 2023 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

But Matt 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. Is sprint out right four times in a game something Pickett can build off throughout the game? Why are all the throws to get Pickett in a rhythm contested balls outside the numbers? The lack of free releases to create lay ups is cornering, although that has improved.

What else falls on coaching? The miscommunication aspect of the passing offense. Pittsburgh’s run game running inside zone, split zone, and duo when their athleticism plays to using run concepts in space throughout the first half of the season—other baffling uses of personnel that set them up to fail. The natural finer details of football are just missing from the offense. That’s coaching, and while the players have to execute, these are not players being set up well. So, that is a caveat you have to acknowledge with Pickett, but in any offensive scheme, there are baseline things you can look at.

So, to that degree, Kenny Pickett has an out, but there are concerning factors. 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.

Steelers QB Kenny Pickett

Steelers QB Kenny Pickett against the Green Bay Packers, Nov. 12, 2023 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

But where I raise the alarm bells is that the exciting flashes are not there. Every other quarterback in this spot, you see them. I’m not talking about C.J. Stroud or guys who just hit the ground running and look to be on their way to elite quarterback status. I’m talking about Bryce Young, Will Levis, and those players. They are high variance and have played some downright awful games, but they also have flashed heavily and put together at least one or two complete games that excited you. Even Justin Fields did that back in his rookie season.

Maybe in this late stretch, Pickett can do that. He can play a complete game that gives you the confidence he can take that leap. But right now, there’s nothing to suggest that. Pickett does not look like a first-round quarterback, but I’d play him the rest of the way to see what he’s got.

Kenny Pickett is the first quarterback since the AFL-NFL 1970 merger to throw a touchdown on fewer than 2% of his attempts career attempts (1.9%) and keeps setting new records on the wrong side of this. Pickett has yet to explode for that career outing that screams to you. There’s nothing substantial to latch onto in that area.

Pittsburgh has to accept their quarterback is a big part of the problem here. He’s not all of it. No, not by a long shot. But at some point, Pickett has to clang one out.

The issue with all of that is Pickett’s inherent play style. He lacks the precision and accuracy to dice up defenses as a pocket passer. He likes to play backyard football, which is a volatile space, but Pittsburgh is trying to get him to improve in the pocket. Make it akin to Josh Allen, who does that but turns the ball over. Pickett plays in a similar vein but lacks the physical tools Allen does. It’s not at all sustainable.

With all the other problems around him, Pittsburgh has to accept that Pickett is a significant part of this flawed offense. Once they do, they can try to figure out solutions from there. But the reality has to be acknowledged.

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Edward Carmichael
Edward Carmichael
November 20, 2023 11:00 am

as a true Steelers fan Kenny Pickett isn’t the problem Mike Tomlin finally started rookie Broderick Jones so the Next step Steelers Omar Khan will have to draft two or three more offensive linemen in the draft next Matt Canada shuold let Kenny Pickett call some of the plays also Kenny Pickett shuold throw the ball more to Pat Freirmuth, Darnell Washington, and Calvin Austin lll it will stop defenses from double teaming George Pickens and Mike Tomlin shuold bring Spencer Anderson from the practice squad and have Spencer Anderson start along side Broderick these things will make Kenny Pickett… Read more »

Jesus Christani
Jesus Christani
November 20, 2023 5:27 pm

This is not a Kenny Pickett problem. This is not an offensive line problem. This is not a wide receiver problem. This not a running back problem. The Pittsburgh Steelers, “Need to face the cold, hard truth,” that this is a COACHING PERFORMANCE & COACHING PERSONNEL PROBLEM. Simply put, if The Steelers would have made a trade with the San Francisco 49ers to begin the 2023 season (Kenny Pickett for Brock Purdy), Brock Purdy would be the QB with weak direction and weak stats while Kenny would be rollin’. Kenny has what it takes to be a successful NFL QB… Read more »

November 20, 2023 5:38 pm

It is not possible to know how good, or bad, Kenny Pickett is. He has NO offensive line protection, a inept OC, and a coach who needs to move on. Rather than be in a situation that is geared to making him successful, he is in one that guarantees failure. The last Steeler series against Cleveland, four minutes left, the ball at about midfield, running the ball down the Brown’s throat — and they call 3 straight passes. There is NO excuse for that. It is beyond STUPID. And Tomlin defended it. He and Canada should have been gone last… Read more »

November 20, 2023 5:39 pm

Letting him play the rest of the way can be okay, ONLY if more routes are run in the middle of the field and he starts to take some initiative on some chances. If the routes are the same and he continues to automatically check down as a first option, there is zero point. We already have seen enough of that. So either do it the way I just said, or change it to Rudolph already. I can’t really applaud much for not throwing any interceptions when he NEVER throws it in any threatening area of the field for his… Read more »

November 21, 2023 12:57 pm

Wow. Some delusional fans here in denial.
Pickett is terrible. Bad reads, bad throws, antsy feet in pocket. No special tools. No arm or feet talent.
He’s not a picket passer. He can’t create plays with legs. He is average on a great day.
Mitch Trubisky 2.0.
Start Rudoloh as he can stretch the field with accurate deep throws.