Here is Kenny Pickett’s stat line in a crucial 13-10 loss to the divisional rival Cleveland Browns on Sunday: 15-of-28 for 106 yards and a 62.5 passer rating. Pickett looked just as incapable and, at times, worse than Browns rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and both teams’ game plans were essentially the same (not ideal).
Pickett in his last seven games? 919 yards passing, 2 touchdowns — yes, 2 — for a net average of 133 passing yards per game. Even having left two of those games early with knee and rib injuries, he’s left much to be desired as a passer, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.
Constant miscommunication, spinning into sacks when unnecessary, shotty accuracy, missing basic throws, poor sideline accuracy — Pickett has struggled in his last two games vs the Green Bay Packers and Tennessee Titans. This performance, though, felt like rock bottom for the quarterback.
The Steelers finished 3-for-14 on third-down conversions and, at one point, were only 1-for-9. In many three and short-yardage situations, the Steelers opted to throw against a fast Cleveland browns defense, seemingly swarming at every short-yardage throw opportunity, rather than give the ball to Warren, who was quickly the Steelers’ offense.
It’s not all his fault, but Diontae Johnson only had two catches for 10 yards on eight targets. There were many opportunities for him to make plays, but he couldn’t make them. The passing game is a mess right now, and that falls on Pickett, but it felt like Johnson wasn’t out there for most of the game. The chemistry between Pickett and Johnson has decreased dramatically, too, with plenty of instances where Johnson is wide open in some regions of the field, and Pickett misses him. Johnson was Pickett’s go-to option many times last season, but that has not come to fruition this year.
Frustrations are becoming more and more apparent. The Steelers are losing a lot of trust in the play-calling, maybe even in the quarterback. Until significant changes are made, more of these performances will continue. The Steelers offense hasn’t scored more than 24 points in a single outing this season — over the course of 10 games. With all of that being said, though, everything for the Steelers is still in front of them. This team is still 6-4 and firmly in wildcard playoff contention.
If Pittsburgh is going to get anything improved in the passing game out of Pickett moving forward, he needs to process and play in the pocket. If he can’t, it might be time to consider all other options.