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Kenny Pickett doesn’t receive any votes on NFL execs’ top-10 QB list

Nobody would have expected him to receive a vote. Still, the second-year quarterback should look to make a big enough leap that he’ll receive them next season.

Kenny Pickett #8 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during the first half of the game against the Cleveland Browns at Acrisure Stadium on January 08, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Every offseason, ESPN takes the time to rank the 10 best players at each position with the help of 80 voters, including NFL executives, coaches, and scouts throughout the league. Monday, the team released their quarterback rankings, and Steelers fans may have noticed one glaring omission — second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett.

That’s not to say anyone in the world would have actually expected him to make the list. Still, it’s more ammo for Pickett’s arsenal as he looks to make a big leap in his second season.

What will it take from Pickett in the 2023-24 NFL season to earn a vote next year? I have three ideas.

3 keys for Pickett to make the top 10 QB list in 2024

  1. Consistency, consistency, consistency. Rewatching Pickett’s rookie tape? Prepare for plenty of highlight throws to fellow rookie WR George Pickens. The tape is absolutely littered with “BOOM,” but in between the boom, we were sometimes left wanting more. Pickett averaged just 6.2 yards per pass attempt in his rookie season (second-fewest among QBs), with a league-low 54.3 passer rating on intermediate pass attempts (targets of 10-19 air yards) despite that propensity for big plays.
  2. Make the transition from game manager to ball player. I know, I know. It will be an uphill battle as long as OC Matt Canada is the one calling plays. Still, even with good ol’ MC, we did begin to see Pickett making that transition after the Steelers’ bye week. Now, he needs to make it complete. After cleaning up the turnovers that plagued him over his first five games, there was a demonstrable shift in the rhythm of the offense and Pickett’s execution. The Steelers closed out the final eight games with a 6-2 record, where Pickett ranked fifth among NFL quarterbacks with an 82.9 PFF passing grade, but much of that came on the back of low-risk, low-reward throws, contributing in part to his disappointing seven total passing touchdowns.
  3. Work the middle of the field to its full potential. The Steelers ranked second in the league with 288 pass attempts outside of the numbers in the 2022 season. It wasn’t always the most fruitful of ventures, however, in terms of efficiency. In order for Pickett to tap into his upside in 2023, he’ll need to maximize his potential throwing across the middle of the field, particularly with TEs Pat Friermuth and now rookie Darnell Washington more than capable of creating mismatches against opposing linebackers and generating yards after the catch.

Steelers passing outside the numbers vs. inside, per NFL Next Gen Stats

Inside Outside
Inside Outside
262 288
6.8 6.6
6.4 10.3
48.10% 37.50%
83.7 79.8

Here’s a look at the top 10 QBs, as compiled by ESPN.

  1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
  2. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
  3. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
  4. Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets
  5. Justin Herbert, LA Chargers
  6. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
  7. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
  8. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
  9. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
  10. Matthew Stafford, LA Rams

Does Kenny Pickett make the list next year? If so, what will it take from him to get the job done? Join the Behind The Steel Curtain community, and let us know in the comments!