The dust has settled on the 2022 NFL Draft, and the early stages of the offseason program are about to unfold. Having had two weeks to meditate on the Steelers’ selections, it is time to look at the positives, and negatives, of the Steelers’ selections.
Today, we are going to begin with the positives of the Steelers’ first round selection, Kenny Pickett. Pickett was a super senior at Pitt who enjoyed a breakout 2021 season, finishing as a Heisman Trophy finalist. He first caught my eye back in 2017 when he led the Panthers to an upset victory over the Miami Hurricanes in late November, and before returning to school in 2021, I pegged him as the biggest quarterback sleeper in the 2021 draft class.
This year, I had the pleasure of writing Pickett’s scouting report for the BTSC Big Board. When watching his tape, the biggest takeaways were his patience in the pocket and his accuracy over the middle of the field. You can check out my full scouting report on him below.
Kenny Pickett | QB | Pittsburgh
Overall Rank: 30
Position Rank: 3
Andrew Wilbar: I have been a big fan of Pickett’s ever since he stepped foot on campus at Pitt. I stood up for him when fans were disgruntled with the offense, and before he decided to return to school for 2021, I was a big proponent of taking a late-round flier on him. I was not surprised when he had his breakout season in 2021, but he has risen too high on the national draft boards for my liking. Pickett is a very solid quarterback who has a decent arm and sneaky good athleticism, but he is older than some of the other quarterbacks in this class, and he does not have an incredibly high ceiling as a pro. The biggest issue, especially for teams that play in cold weather, will be his incredibly small hands. Pickett participated in the 2022 Senior Bowl, but he struggled badly in practices when it was raining. There is no denying that he lost his accuracy and struggled to push the ball downfield when the weather got rough. Pickett’s accuracy improved by leaps and bounds this season, but he sometimes struggled to get off his first read and get through his progressions before the pressure got to him. He reminds me a lot of Kirk Cousins when it comes to his ability to roll out to his weak side, and his delivery and arm strength remind me of a Derek Carr or an Andy Dalton. The big question will be, “Is he capable of anything greater than that?”. That is what teams are going to have to determine over the next few months when it comes to Pickett and how high he should be taken.
We will conclude this two-part breakdown of Pickett next week when we discuss reasons to dislike the selection, but for today, we are going to focus on the good things and give fans a reason to be excited about the team’s next franchise quarterback. If you have any thoughts on this topic, be sure to share them in the comment section below.
Let’s dive in!
1. He was the safest option at quarterback
Everyone seemed to have his own take on this year’s quarterback class. Some saw potential, while others saw projection. However, one constant during the process was the floor of Kenny Pickett. Now, a quarterback’s floor should not be the end-all when it comes to his evaluation. After all, the same was said by many pundits about Josh Rosen, and he has clearly had the least success of the top quarterbacks in the 2018 class. However, I believe it would be a shock to almost any avid fan if Pickett did not become one of the top 32 quarterbacks in the NFL in short order.
2. He has the “it” factor
Pickett’s instinctual ability to make smart decisions with the football is a trait comparable with many of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, and his leadership in the locker room has been noted by many with ties to Pitt. This is what I believe separates him from players such as Josh Rosen, who was also considered a safer pick with a lower ceiling. It is extremely unlikely Pickett becomes an elite quarterback in the NFL, but his passion for the game and for his team could carry him farther than most people believe. Combine that with his top-notch instincts, and you have yourself a competent quarterback.
3. He has dual-threat ability
Pickett is no Malik Willis when it comes to athleticism and ability as a runner, but compared to what the Steelers have had under center from an athletic standpoint over the past few seasons, his ability as a runner will be a noticeable upgrade. In a league where defenders are coming in smaller and faster every year, it is becoming more and more necessary for the man under center to have some speed of his own. Pickett is a true 4.7 guy who runs the football like a Justin Herbert or Kirk Cousins in this aspect: he will use his mobility as a way to make plays outside the pocket as a passer more often than he will use it to gain chunk yardage on the ground as a runner. If he can be for the Steelers exactly what he was in college in terms of mobility usage, he will be sufficient for what Matt Canada is looking for.
What do you think is the biggest reason for Steelers fans to be excited about Kenny Pickett? Be sure to share your thoughts on this and all things Pittsburgh Steelers in the comment section below, and stay tuned to BTSC for news and notes surrounding the Steelers as we head into the summer portion of the offseason program.