What a stinker that second preseason game was, right?
Yes, despite pulling out yet another last-second win in exhibition play with a 16-15 victory over the Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on Saturday night, the Steelers left their fans and the media asking one simple question: “WTF?”
Why were people asking that question about these Steelers? Geeze, where does one begin? Did Pittsburgh shine in any facet of its second preseason game?
Not really, at least not really at any position besides quarterback—one quarterback, in particular, I should say.
Mitch Trubisky wasn’t really in there long enough to pass judgment on his performance other than “Meh.”
Mason Rudolph again looked good, but, outside of blackmailing his bosses, he has about the same chance of winning the starting job as I do.
That brings me to Kenny Pickett, who I thought looked tremendous on Saturday night. He appeared to be every bit as poised as he did in his NFL debut against the Seahawks a week earlier; however, he was a bit more aggressive with his passes and even had most of his “ones” in terms of skill-position players to throw to.
Sure, Pickett also had his “ones” blocking for him along the offensive line, a detriment to those without the athleticism to move very fast, but the rookie quarterback out of the University of Pittsburgh isn’t someone bereft of such physical capabilities.
While Pickett does possess the athletic prowess to move out of the way when one of his hogs whiffs on a block—this happened a lot against the Jaguars—what impressed me the most on Saturday was his ability to stand in the pocket and deliver accurate strikes 15 or 20 yards down the middle of the field as he was about to get tattooed by a defender coming straight at him fast and hard.
This isn’t a knock against Ben Roethlisberger, but that kind of thing—specifically, the accurate strikes 15 or 20 yards down the middle of the field part—was missing from Pittsburgh’s offense the past two seasons.
All in all, Pickett completed six of seven passes (and wasn’t the incompletion on a spike?) for 76 yards and a touchdown. My favorite stat of the night—a number that harkens back to Roethlisberger’s glory days—was Pickett’s yards per passing attempt: 10.9.
History tells us that is a championship stat for a quarterback.
Obviously, the sample size is incredibly small, but Pickett has turned in two very good performances so far in the preseason (he has three incompletions on 22 combined passing attempts). Do I expect Pickett to struggle at some point? Yes, but I think he’s already convinced me that he has a great chance at being no worse than a very good quarterback in the NFL.
Another question? Do I think Pickett will be the starter against the Bengals in Week 1? No, but I do feel a bit better about the Steelers’ immediate future once Pickett does inevitably assume the role as the team’s top quarterback.
The Steelers still have many question marks and obvious flaws as they prepare for the 2022 regular season, but they do appear to have found themselves a good, young quarterback.
That’s the kind of thing that no team—good, bad or flawed—can live without.
The Steelers' present might be a bit tenuous, but their future should be a lot brighter once Kenny Pickett becomes their starting quarterback.