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 continue by looking at the negatives 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.
If you missed the first part of this discussion, when I broke down the reasons to like the selection, you can check it out by clicking on the link below.
If you have any thoughts on the selection of Kenny Pickett, be sure to share them in the comment section below, discussing what he brings to a new-look quarterback room.
Let’s dive in!
1. He was far from the best player available
This article is not to focus on just Malik Willis, but he must be mentioned as one of the players the Steelers should have considered taking instead of Pickett. I am not going to rehash my evaluation of Willis, as you have all heard it numerous times. However, one other player the Steelers should have considered was Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth, who, due to sports hernia surgery, fell to the second round. Plus, with the amount of trading that took place near the Steelers’ pick, I cannot help but think the Steelers could have traded back if they wanted to. Of course, we know trading back was not their mindset this year, but it is something that Kevin Colbert could have entertained, considering how quickly the quarterbacks were falling. Even if Kenny Pickett was the selection, the Steelers could have likely found a trade partner and taken Pickett in a more reasonable range. The point being, the value of Pickett at 20 was not great.
2. Expectations must be held in check
Unlike Malik Willis and, to a lesser extent, Desmond Ridder, Kenny Pickett’s career expectations must be held in check due to his limitations as a passer. I had considered titling this section, “His ceiling is limited,” but I knew the example of Tom Brady would be brought up. Could Pickett become an elite quarterback and improve his arm strength once established in the league? Of course, but it is unfair to Pickett for fans to expect that. With Willis and Ridder, upside was not as big a question, and in Willis’ case, it was not a question at all.
If the Steelers have Super Bowl aspirations with Kenny Pickett at the helm, they will need to put quite the team around him. Weapons are not an issue currently, as the Steelers are loaded with talent and youth at the offensive skill positions. However, the Steelers have major decisions to make on the defensive side of the ball in the near future, as Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alex Highsmith, Devin Bush, and Terrell Edmunds will all be up for new contracts within the next two years. Taking an already good defense to the next level will greatly increase the Steelers’ chances of winning a Super Bowl.
3. It may prevent Mitch Trubisky from getting a chance to lead the team
The leading indicator of the Steelers preferring Malik Willis over Kenny Pickett was the signing of Mitch Trubisky. This is what lead many, including myself, down an incorrect path of thinking. The Steelers typically use free agency to find competent pieces at positions of need, as Kevin Colbert has never liked going into the draft with a pressing need at any one position. Looking back on what transpired, it appears as if the Steelers signed Trubisky as insurance for a scenario where none of the three quarterbacks they reportedly had first round grades on were available.
The issue lies in the fact that Kenny Pickett is about as good as he is going to get, having played in 52 games in 5 seasons of college ball. When the Steelers signed Trubisky, it made the most sense to me for the team to select Malik Willis, who would need a year of development on the bench. This move also would have allowed the Steelers to see what they have in Trubisky, who, from all indications, had a remarkable mental recovery during his one-year stint in Buffalo. Talent has never been a question for Trubisky, but after being hated on by Bears fans immediately following his draft selection, and after being thrown into a dumpster fire in Chicago prematurely, his confidence quickly dwindled. If he has truly revived his career from a mental aspect, the sky’s the limit in a Matt Canada offense that fits Trubisky’s play style to a tee.
However, with the selection of Kenny Pickett, Trubisky may not have an opportunity in Pittsburgh, and if he does, he will be on a short leash. After all, the Steelers have a pro-ready rookie waiting in the wings. If he is not going to get any better by sitting on the bench, why would you not start him?
Whether you endorsed or discouraged the selection of Kenny Pickett, what concerns you the most about Pickett's game? What is the one thing fans should pay the closest attention to this summer when it comes to his development as a rookie quarterback? Be sure to share your thoughts on this and all things Pittsburgh Steelers in the comment section below!