There are many happy Steelers fans right now after the team made University of Pittsburgh quarterback (QB) Kenny Pickett the 20th overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft. There are also many befuddled fans who liked other options better.
Nevertheless, Pickett is the guy, and his selection has a domino effect on the rest of the organization. Let’s take a look at whose stock is up, and whose is falling, after the Steelers’ first pick.
Stock Up: Kenny Pickett
There could have been no better outcome for Pickett than to leave Las Vegas and go right back home to the Steel City. The NFL’s steadiest organization already boasts a top tier Defense and young talent on Offense to surround the former Panther, and offers a chance to compete with Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph right away.
Other teams that could have been in on the talented passer couldn’t offer the kind of established environment that Pickett will have in Pittsburgh. His maturity and experience make him a threat to start from Day One. Perfect scenario for the 24-year-old.
Stock Down: Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph
Different reasons here, but both players’ stock has taken a hit after the selection of Pickett. For Trubisky, he is no longer the locked-and-loaded Day One starter that many viewed him as a day ago. The selection of any other QB probably wouldn’t have changed that perception, but now that status is up in the air.
For Rudolph, his spot on the team could even be in question at this point. Pickett is an immediate upgrade in mobility, decision making, pocket awareness, and accuracy, and, you could argue, makes Mason expendable. I still think he’ll be given an opportunity to prove he belongs with the other two guys, but for now, he’s probably headed to the store to pick up some extra antiperspirant.
Stock Up: Diontae Johnson
This comes from fellow BTSC contributor Geoffrey Benedict, but it makes a lot of sense. Kenny Pickett thrives as a quick strike passer on short and intermediate passes where Johnson thrives. I’ve mentioned that Trubisky and Pickett have similar play styles, and I think DJ fits better with either of those guys over a Malik Willis or Desmond Ridder who likes to push the ball down the field more. When the QB has to move outside the pocket and extend the play, Johnson’s shiftiness makes it hard for defenders to stay with him, and Pickett has that ability in spades.
In a league where Wide Receivers are cashing in, Diontae Johnson has to be excited at the opportunity to show his value as an outstanding route runner with lightning agility. He has a great chance to do so with Pickett behind center.
Stock Up: Offensive Line
We’ve talked ad nauseam as Steelers fans about the poor play from the Offensive Line (OL) in 2021 and how it needs to be much better for the Offense to make progress. It didn’t help that 2021 Ben Roethlisberger was so limited from a mobility standpoint. It’s pretty safe to say that won’t be an issue in 2022 with either Trubisky or Pickett taking snaps.
Pickett showed incredible ability at Pitt last season to navigate the pocket and work the perimeter of the field with his legs. That takes a load of pressure off of the OL to have to hold blocks for forever or risk your statuesque 38-year-old QB’s health. With a more athletic passer at the helm, the line should be able to utilize it’s youth and athleticism better, while play action schemes and bootlegs create space and time for the QB to operate.
Stock Down: Andrew Wilbar
If you think about our friend here at the site, and my fellow podcaster on the Steelers Draft Fix, please send him many happy thoughts and “Get Well” cards. The Steelers selection of Pickett over Willis will leave a scar for eternity unless a 7th Lombardi is added in the next 5 years. It will be difficult, but with a little help from all of us, we can help him get through this troubling time. We’re here for you, Andrew. We’re here for you.