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It’s time to be real about Kenny Pickett

Let’s have an honest conversation about Kenny Pickett.

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Kenny Pickett conversation is one that needs to be had, and it’s needed to be had for quite a while. It feels more appropriate now than ever, though, after this past week and the aftermath that ensued in the Steelers’ win over the Ravens.

In the aforementioned Week 5 win, Pickett went 18-of-32 for 224 yards, one touchdown, and a passer rating of 88.5- an overall fine performance. Not great, not dreadful, just fine.

But then, we have people in Pittsburgh media who say that Pickett is a guy who can help you win championships- as in multiple Super Bowls- and that he has “IT.” Or that he may not put up incredible numbers, but he won the game and what he does is more impressive than a quarterback who throws for 400 yards and loses.

And there lies my biggest issue. The rose-tinted glasses that Kenny Pickett’s biggest supporters wear don’t result in clearer vision, they create blindness to his obvious flaws.

In terms of statistical output, the Steelers’ offense is dreadful, and Pickett is a large reason why. He ranks 26th in passer rating, 21st in yards, and 32nd in QBR. To continue, the Steelers are also second in the NFL in bad throws, 30th in on-target percentage, and 21st in intended air yards per pass attempt. This means that even though the Steelers aren’t throwing the ball downfield, Pickett is still struggling to complete passes. To add onto this depressing reality, Pickett is also 29th in EPA/play, 32nd in success rate, and 33rd in EPA + CPOE composite. Statistically, he is a bottom-five quarterback in football.

Now, if you want to make the argument that we don’t know what the height of his talents because of Matt Canada, I’ll hear you out on that- it’s a very fair argument. But I’d counter and say that his ceiling is low even with a capable offensive coordinator. This isn’t a quarterback with elite tools. He doesn’t have a big arm, he doesn’t see the field at an elite level, his pocket presence is inconsistent at best. So while I agree that we won’t see his true ceiling as long as Canada is running the offense, his peak is being a slightly more athletic Jimmy Garoppolo.

Now, many fans will argue that there needs to be patience with Pickett and his progression as a starter. My reply to that is we’ve seen enough. All offseason, everyone talked about how Kenny Pickett looked primed for a leap in year two and how well he played down the stretch in 2022. Unfortunately, he hasn’t looked any different in 2023. In most cases, actually, he’s looked worse. It’s hard to preach patience when you have the league’s most expensive defense that isn’t getting younger, as well as a conference that features Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, Trevor Lawrence, and Justin Herbert, and Tua Tagovailoa. Plus, C.J. Stroud already looks better than Pickett ever has, and if Anthony Richardson even sniffs his ceiling, he is going to be a problem for a long time.

You’re going to have to go through some combination of all of those guys for the next decade if you want to get to a Super Bowl. Right now the Steelers don’t have the guy to do it.

My opinion on Kenny Pickett is the same that it was, and is, about Mac Jones. He was drafted way above what he was worth, he has a low ceiling, and he will seemingly always have a group of loud and loyal defenders who swear nothing is ever his fault. Yes, Matt Canada is a bad offensive coordinator- the same way Joe Judge and Matt Patricia were bad offensive coordinators for Jones. However, these things aren’t mutually exclusive. It can be true that, while the offensive coordinator is not good, neither is the quarterback.

And that is a pill some fans will refuse to swallow because they are also fans of the university he played at for five years, and only played well in one of those years before being drafted higher than he should have been. Now, he is with an organization whose patience is their biggest weakness, and they will likely wait too long to see that he isn’t what they hoped he would be when they took him 20th overall.

This is all going to come across as a Kenny Pickett smear campaign, and I don’t mean for it to come across that way. As a person, Kenny Pickett seems like a really nice guy. Kenny Pickett the quarterback, though, lacks the tools to be anything more than a mediocre starter that teams can use as a bridge, but quickly look to replace. And this notion that he is Pittsburgh’s messiah doesn’t come from any place of merit whatsoever. Whether you want to admit that or not, the numbers don’t lie- it’s the truth. And sometimes, the truth hurts.