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Steelers OTAs Takeaways: Kenny Pickett Stands Out, Secondary Sorts Out



Steelers OTAs Kenny Pickett

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers OTAs program continued on Wednesday with the players continuing to sharpen their skills as the team goes deeper into the offseason. However, what could be taken away from Wednesday’s session right off the rip? Here are a few things that I noticed on Wednesday.

Darnell Washington’s Routes

When making these basic observations in shorts, I’m just looking for some traits at times. One thing that stood out to me on Wednesday was the first real flaw I saw in Darnell Washington’s game. He’s not a great route runner. The blocking is great, and that’s fine anyways. But the routes? Yeah, the tape bares it out and so do the reps.

This route is just one such example of his routes lacking polish. Washington is never going to be a great break-it-down and make-crazy-cuts route runner. That’s not who he is nor will he ever be that. The Steelers OTAs reps and the Georgia tape tell you that is where the most growth will come from during his rookie season. Washington will help the Steelers early on as a blocker, I have no doubt about it. But I am not sure that contributions in the passing game will be so plentiful early on aside from select plays.

Steelers Work Play Action

During the routes portion of the session today, the team began to work some rhythm-based routes. That includes play action, and Miles Boykin confirmed that the team did run some of those rhythm-based ideas with an early emphasis on play action. Why? Boykin believes it’s all tied to Pickett.

“It can be huge (play action),” Boykin said. “Anytime you have a quarterback like Kenny that is mobile and can move and do different things, it gives the defense an aspect they have to think about. The more things you throw at a defense, the more liable they are to make some of those mistakes.”

Play action makes sense for the Steelers this season as a way to create chunk plays in the passing game. They failed to do a lot of that last year, but the team could begin really crack things open in that regard. Why? With a strong rushing attack, play action makes sense to work off that. In fact, it could work and vice versa, too. If Pittsburgh does not have the running game going, the play-action game could open that up. Pickett’s comfortability in year two has taken another leap, and play action could be part of the offense taking that leap with him.

Kenny Pickett Takes Bull By Its Horns

Kenny Pickett is standing out to his teammates in practice in a different way already. The second-year quarterback is stepping up as the alpha leader of the team and becoming a far different kind of leader from what he was in the first year of his career. Miles Boykin detailed just how different Pickett is this season.

“Kenny’s always been mature and we knew that from the first day he walked in here,” Boykin said. “He’s leading in a different way. He’s telling us what he likes and what he doesn’t like. That helps everybody out because we’re now on the same page. When you step up like that, it means you’re getting comfortable. That’s his biggest difference from year one to year two.”

Pickett’s personality is that of a guy who wants to be the leader of a locker room. Even as a rookie, there was no fear in his eyes throughout both games and in the locker room. So, now that Pickett is comfortable enough to call players out, as a player, that means the quarterback is going to command respect. We’ll how the tangible qualities that Pickett displays evolve, but the intangible qualities are the ones that can show through this early. Boykin and others are feeling that vibe change already.

Jaylen Warren is Ripped

There are some startling physical transformations that are already showing up at OTAs, but Jaylen Warren’s is one of the more startling ones. He’s added a lot of mass to his lower half. The upper half seems to have added some weight, too, but he is up about 5-10 pounds, Warren told me.

Why is that significant? Warren’s leg drive and power were already there. But he’s going to take that to the next level with more added mass and the ability to run through those lazy arm tackles. So far, Warren has not lost any agility on his cuts, either. He should still be a good change of pace back along with Najee Harris in the backfield.

Levi Wallace Changes Spots

On Wednesday, Levi Wallace made a standout play. He picked off Kenny Pickett in the drills, and confirmed that he had made the play. The fervor that went with the play, however, could only be told by the smile that beamed across Wallace’s face as he recited the play. Pickett ran hard after Wallace and Cody White came from behind to force a fumble in a wild sequence.

“I started laughing because of how hard [Pickett] was running [at me],” Wallace said. “Cody came out of nowhere and punched the ball out. It was funny. It’s all competing.”

Wallace also said he switched sides to right cornerback this year. That is different from last year and there are some changes. It flips the secondary around, and for Wallace specifically, he has to completely redo his footwork mechanics from the side. So, while there are those changes, he is excited about the prospect.
“I’m playing a different side corner this year, with right side, so now I’ve got Alex instead of T.J. It feels different. You have to learn the guys that you’re around,” Wallace said.
Wallace is the unsung man of the cornerback room but is a leader for the young players along with Patrick Peterson at cornerback. He expects to have another solid year after flipping sides.


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Roberta J Campbell
Roberta J Campbell
May 25, 2023 9:48 am

I am feeling good about the team this season. I believe they have the team to move forward and get back to winning in the post season. The only thing that I worry about is the play calling of Canada. I hoping the team it self can succeed in spite of the coaching of the OC.

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