The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into 2023 and looking at their team needs before the start of free agency in March. Unlike last year, quarterback isn’t on the list. After Kenny Pickett’s rookie campaign, which certainly had plenty of ups and downs, the second year signal caller is setting his goals for his second season as a professional. Surprisingly, those goals aren’t based on touchdowns or completion percentages.
“My goals are to win,” Pickett told Pro Football Focus. “I don’t care how it gets done, what needs to be done. I’m not going to give you a number of what I’m aiming for. It’s just to go out there and win.”
Winning is something Pickett did experience a lot in the second half of his rookie season. It was Pickett’s play, largely in protecting the football, which equated to the Steelers winning 7 of their last 9, and 4 in a row to finish the season 9-8.
Throughout the season, Pickett learned about the NFL game. Not just the speed of the players, but learning how to manipulate the pocket at the highest level. Something which remains a work-in-progress for the former Pitt quarterback,
“Out of 10 throws, you’re probably only throwing in rhythm three times out of 10,” Pickett said. “The pocket is always hot with how great these pass rushers are. The speed of the game is more mental. I’m learning a new system, I’m seeing new things from the defense. Learning new coverages, fronts, structures. Guys are obviously bigger, faster and stronger, but it just takes time and reps. Everyone wants to go in there and light it up, but sometimes it just takes some time to play and get your feet under you, and then you see those jumps and improvements week by week.”
Throughout the bumps in the road Pickett experienced in his first several starts, his goal was to never make the same mistake twice.
“There’s highs and lows,” Pickett said of his rookie season. “I was grateful for my experience at Pitt. I wasn’t lighting it up like I was my last year during my first couple years. Having those moments of adversity prepared me for the NFL. It allowed me to not waver too much because I’ve been there before. I knew I was going to work my ass off to get where I wanted to get to.”
It was halftime of Week 4, a home game vs. the New York Jets when Pickett got the call to go into the game. After Mitch Trubisky struggled throughout the first half, Mike Tomlin wanted a “spark”, and inserted Pickett into the game. As Pickett recalls that game, he knew how good the Jets’ defense was, but was confident in his ability to make plays and find a way to win the game.
“I knew [the Jets] had a really good defense, really talented secondary, really good up front,” Pickett remembered. “But I felt like I was playing well. I know the three picks don’t show it. But I was hanging in there making some throws. But I had this feeling that I could do it. If this is where I was starting, after not playing [as the starter] in our system for five weeks, I knew I was just going to keep getting better and better.”
It is safe to say the hope of the fan base is Pickett continues to get better and better throughout the offseason and into the 2023 season. If he is able to pick up where he left off in 2022, the hope is the winning ways of the Steelers will continue.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the NFL offseason.