Pickett has thrown for 13 touchdowns in 22 starts dating back to last season. No other NFL QB has thrown for that few in as many starts in the last two decades. On top of that, the Steelers have scored just one offensive TD or less in 50% of their games this season. No matter how you feel about offensive coordinator Matt Canada, those numbers are a direct reflection of the quarterback.
While I don’t anticipate the black and gold moving on from Pickett after the season due to the loyal nature of the organization, maybe general manager Omar Khan will throw a wrench into things. The upcoming NFL draft is loaded with arm talent, and the Steelers would be derelict of duty not to consider one of these five players.
Caleb Williams, USC
Caleb Williams was born to play the quarterback position. He’s arguably the best prospect at the position since former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who was selected with the first overall draft choice in 2012.
Williams has elite arm talent, exceptional pocket maneuverability, and a favorable body composition in today’s league.
CALEB WILLIAMS SENDO CALEB WILLIAMS pic.twitter.com/uq8HHosiyU— Endzone Brasil (@Endzone_Brasil) November 18, 2023
With that said, the Steelers won’t have any shot at drafting him – because he will likely be one of the top two players off the board, and Pittsburgh will finish somewhere in the middle of the draft.
Drake Maye, North Carolina
Maye is another player the Steelers won’t be able to sniff, but at least it’s fun to dream. Maye has completed 63.8 percent of his passes on the year, with 22 TDs to just seven interceptions. Some actually have him rated ahead of Williams as the top signal-caller in the class.
The redshirt sophomore burst onto the scene last season, tossing 38 touchdowns. He also has the ideal size (6’4, 230 lbs.) and the arm strength to immediately become a franchise changer.
Bo Nix QB Oregon
Nix could take home the Heisman trophy this year and has vaulted himself into potential first-round pick consideration. This is a guy who could be in the Steelers’ draft pick range. The redshirt senior and former Auburn Tiger has eye-popping statistics, tossing 35 touchdowns to just two interceptions so far in the 2023 campaign. He’s also a dual threat, as he’s rushed for five touchdowns.
While Nix is a fun prospect, he may have too many similarities to Kenny Pickett at the end of the day. He’s already 23 years old and really didn’t burst onto the scene until 2022, after three pedestrian years at Auburn.
Michael Penix Jr, Washington
Penix Jr. might just be my draft crush. His ability to fit the ball into tight windows down the field is exactly what plays in the NFL in this era. He needs to work on his footwork, but that’s a very coachable trait. The timing and feel in the pocket are two things that Pickett currently lacks.
Michael Penix Jr. with a 40+ yard rifle to the endzone pic.twitter.com/v5lRcUnfcX— Kendell Hollowell (@KHollowell_) November 12, 2023
Penix Jr. is someone who could be a late first-round draft pick due to the fact that he also burst onto the scene very late in his college career. You’d have to wonder if the Steelers would have a serious war-room debate.
Shedeur Sanders, Colorado
I’ll lead with this – I don’t think Sanders will leave Colorado and declare for the draft. The son of “Coach Prime,” Deion Sanders, has all of the makings of a solid NFL quarterback. He’s been compared to the recent version of Geno Smith due to his quick release and accuracy. He’s also dripping with confidence and charisma - and plays with a chip on his shoulder after starting his career at Jackson State.
Sanders was injured in the Buffaloes’ most recent outing against Washington State, but not before he set the Colorado record for most passing yards in a season, with 3,230 and counting.
If he does declare he will be a tantalizing prospect, and someone Pittsburgh should certainly keep an eye on.
At the end of the day, I’d be shocked if Pittsburgh moves on from Kenny Pickett after just two years. Generally, that’s just not how they operate. And unfortunately, that could set them back yet another year — and before you know it, we will be previewing the 2025 draft class.