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7 stats that prove Steelers QB Kenny Pickett (probably) ain’t it

Kenny Pickett #8 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on in the third quarter against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 19, 2023 in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers fans are seemingly in a tailspin regarding the play of second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett following a brutal Week 11 loss to the Cleveland Browns. Some have finally given up hope that he’s the future of the franchise. Some have taken it a step further to call for his benching in favor of Mason Rudolph, for crying out loud.

Is it a gross overreaction following a loss? Or maybe, just maybe, is there something to the idea that Pickett is not a franchise quarterback, and maybe — just maybe — game-winning drives aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. After all, with an elite defense like the Steelers’, you’re not bound to be in a position to need a game-winning drive if you’re not down to begin with, right?

How bad has Pickett been in the context of the other quarterbacks in NFL history? With Pickett’s 22nd NFL start in the rearview mirror, let’s see where he ranks among the 265 quarterbacks to start 22 or more games dating back to 1950.*

Where Kenny Pickett ranks among NFL QBs in history

  • 1.9% touchdown percentage (265th — Last)
  • 9.9 passing yards per completion (t-264th)
  • 6.2 pass yards per attempt (246th)
  • 66.6% on-target pass percentage (59th among 61 qualifying QBs** since 2019)
  • 44% air-yard success rate (87th among 117 qualifying QBs** since 2006)
  • 27% of passing plays resulting in a first down (163rd among 177 qualifying QBs** since 1991)
  • 13.8% touchdown drive percentage (124 among 148 qualifying QBs** since 2000)

*Qualifying QBs have a minimum of 22 starts, averaging 15 or more pass attempts per game

**Qualifying QBs started 22 or more games since stat started being tracked in the year indicated in parentheses

Unsurprisingly, Pickett’s 1.9% career interception rate ranks well among that cohort of quarterbacks — 10th best in that cohort, in fact — but other than that, it’s pretty challenging to find a metric that points to any sort of hope that Pickett’s is the answer at quarterback for this Steelers franchise.

Things don't look any better when comparing him against a smaller cohort this season alone, either. Among the 27 quarterbacks with 200 or more pass attempts in 2023, Pickett leads the league with an uncatchable and inaccurate pass rate of 24.7%, per PFF. His 61.8 PFF passing grade ranks fifth-lowest in the league, while his 67.8% adjusted completion percentage ranks second lowest. Just 46.1% air-yards percentage ranks second-lowest among such quarterbacks, with rookie C.J. Stroud at 61.1%, for comparison.

Granted, there is no stat out there to measure the clutch factor (at least, not yet), but until there is, Pickett is not