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Steelers QB Leads NFL in Passing Stat — Not the One You’d Think



Steelers QB Mitch Trubisky Kenny Pickett

A Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback finished the 2022 regular season as the NFL leader in completion percentage over expectations, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, but not the one that you might think.

Steelers backup Mitchell Trubisky ended up leading the NFL in CPOE during the 2022 season, finishing with a 5% difference. Trubisky was expected to complete 60% of his passes, but actually completed 65%.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith was second at 4.4%. Steelers starter Kenny Pickett was below expectation at -0.5%.

Expected completion percentage is a metric developed by NFL NGS to put context to the difficultly of each pass attempt. A shovel pass or a bubble screen is much easier to complete than a Hail Mary.

The software, which incorporates player tracking data, calculates a catch likelihood for each pass a quarterback throws throughout the season, based on air distance, receiver separation from coverage, area of the field, the quarterback being stationary or moving, amount of time to throw, and distance from pass rushers.

Trubisky getting extra credit for completing for difficult passes is somewhat ironic, considering that the top criticism of him while he was the team’s starting quarterback in the first four games of the season was that he didn’t take enough chances in throwing the ball downfield.

That changed when Trubisky was inserted into the lineup as a backup three times later in the season and that’s when his CPOE began to climb. On the whole, his 65% completion rate is only middle of the pack, even though he led the league in CPOE. Smith had the top completion percentage at 69.8%.

And of course, completion percentage is leaving out what happened to those incomplete balls. Trubisky’s three interceptions against Baltimore in Week 14 were directly responsible for the Steelers losing that game, and ultimately, failing to make the playoffs.