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Kenny Pickett and PFF’s “Big Time Throw” metric

What defines a “Big Time Throw” and was Picked really ranked that high?

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

On the most recent episode of the Steelers Stat Geek podcast I was asked to break down Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) “Big Time Throw” metric. The question asked what all went in to this statistical measurement and if Kenny Pickett was ranked towards the top of the NFL in the second half of the 2023 NFL season.

To answer this question, I’m going to do it in somewhat reverse order than I would typically answer. Rather than explain the metric first, I’m going to look at how Kenny Pickett ranked in 2023.

Looking at just the regular season, Josh Allen lead the way in this metric by a significant margin with 44 Big Time Throws (BTT). Additionally, Allen had a big time throw percentage (BTT%) of 7.4% which is defined as his number of Big Time Throws divided by his pass attempts. Allen had 10 more BTT than the next closest quarterbacks in Geno Smith and Tom Brady who each had 34. Smith held a significant advantage in BTT% with 5.6% compared to Brady’s 4.4%.

When looking at Kenny Pickett, he finished tied for 15th with 18 BTT along with Jacoby Brissett, Dak Prescott, Tua Tagovailoa, and Jared Goff. To put this number in perspective, there were 27 quarterbacks in 2023 who had double-digit BTT with Mitch Trubisky also landing on the list with 11.

Now that we’ve looked at the entire season, the question was asked about looking at the second half of the 2023 season. When filtering out the games to include those from Week 10 through Week 18, Josh Allen once again leads the way with 23 BTT and 8.0% BTT%. In looking at Pickett’s BTT totals, he was tied for eighth with 15 BTT along with Mac Jones and Justin Herbert.

So where did Pickett land towards the top of the NFL? That came in the BTT% the second half of the season. When filtering it out for only players who had at least 100 passing attempts, Pickett ranked second with a 6.3% BTT% only behind Josh Allen. If there was no minimum attempts, Kenny Pickett landed in sixth as there were percentages higher from Matt Stafford, Jordan Love, Zach Wilson, and Mitch Trubisky. Yes, Mitch Trubisky’s 4 BTT in his time in relief of Pickett landed him with a 7.4% BTT%.

When looking at Kenny pickets BTT numbers by game, his three throws before the bye week came with one against the Buffalo Bills and two against the Miami Dolphins. After the Steelers bye, the only game in which Pickett appeared and did not have a BTT was in Week 14 against the Ravens where he only threw one pass before leaving the game with a concussion. The final two weeks of the season, Pickett had 4 BTT against the Ravens and 3 against the Browns.

So now that I’ve broken down Kenny Pickett‘s numbers when it comes to BTT, it’s time for the big reveal as to what the metric actually is…

PFF’s big time throw metric is defined as passes with “excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and/or into a tighter window.”

In other words, it basically comes down to a person scoring the game and seeing a pass and saying, “Gee, that was a big time throw.”

There is no mathematical or statistical standard to the throw. If someone at PFF thinks it is one, then it is. Much like their “Turnover Worthy Plays’ (TWP), as well as their entire scoring system, it is merely based off of opinions. So while it seems impressive that Kenny Pickett was second in the NFL in BTT% from Week 10 on, whether or not that means anything to you is completely understandable.

Sorry I waited till the end to spoil it, but otherwise I assumed you would be like me and possibly quit reading.

What is measurable is the Pittsburgh Steelers going 7–2 over the final nine games of the 2023 season. Additionally, Pickett was credited with four game-winning drives since the bye week. To me, that is some big-time play.

To hear more on the subject, as well as looking at the Steelers recent free agent classes, check out the latest episode of the Steelers Stat Geek podcast below: