The Pittsburgh Steelers ended last season as one of the hottest teams in the NFL and barely missed out on a playoff spot. The main reason behind the team’s late-season success was Kenny Pickett’s development.
Over the last nine games of the 2022 season, Pickett guided the Steelers to a 7-2 record which included back-to-back game-winning drives in difficult situations.
Pickett threw the game-winning touchdown to George Pickens against the Las Vegas Raiders, which happened to be on Christmas Eve and was the coldest game in Acrisure Stadium history. The very next week, Pickett flashed more of his magic when throwing the game-winning touchdown to Najee Harris at M&T Bank Stadium, the home of the Baltimore Ravens.
“From Week 12 onward last year, the only quarterback in the NFL with a higher passing grade than Kenny Pickett was Joe Burrow,” wrote Trevor Sikkema of Pro Football Focus. “Pickett recorded an incredible 7.2% big-time throw percentage and just a 1.2% turnover-worthy play percentage. All of that points to a big leap for Pickett in his second season.”
After the team’s Week 9 bye, Pickett completed 59.4% of his passes (133 of 244) for 1,442 yards and five touchdowns while only surrendering one interception. While his completion percentage dropped from the first half of the season, Pickett’s number increased steadily in every other category. This showed that his decision-making was improving and he was identifying coverages faster.
“With hopefully a fully healthy T.J. Watt returning for a full season, Pittsburgh will be a tough out once again,” wrote Sikkema.
Pickett ended last season as one of the best deep-passing quarterbacks and provided multiple clutch moments to lead the Steelers to a 9-8 record. Couple that with a full offseason as the first-team quarterback and a healthy T.J. Watt, who missed seven games due to an injury in 2022, and the Steelers should be an improved group in the 2023 season.