Steelers didn’t exactly go for the stars with Kenny Pickett selection

Kenny Pickett is the newest member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but here’s why Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert chose safety over the rise.

I was on FanSided Stack the box live stream when Pittsburgh’s first draft pick was announced. To my amazement, it wasn’t Malik Willis — the quarterback who had been heavily tied to the Steelers all offseason.

With the 20th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Kenny Pickett. The former Pitt Panthers quarterback will appease about half of the fan base (those who followed him throughout college). As for me, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the selection.

Let’s start with the good. Pickett took a monumental leap forward in his fifth varsity season. Prior to his 2021 campaign, Pickett was considered a third-day draft pick. That changed last year when Pickett put together perhaps the most impressive QB season in college football in 2021 with 42 touchdowns, 4,319 passing yards and just 7 interceptions. via Sports Reference.

Pickett averaged an impressive 9.7 adjusted yards per attempt and led his team to a remarkable 11-3 record – the best since Dan Marino went 11-1 at Pitt in 1981.

However, I wouldn’t be quick to call Pickett the second coming of Marino. While there were things to like about his game, it really felt like hitting a double for me, as opposed to swinging for the fences.

Steelers get safe but unspectacular QB

I’m not going to say that Pickett could never become one of the NFL’s top 10 quarterbacks, but I think the odds of him doing so are very unlikely, given his skill set. Pickett has more mobility (speed of 4.73) which often appears on tape. Although he’s not much of a runner, he’s good at throwing on the move, especially to his right.

However, in terms of arm talent, there’s nothing about Pickett that separates him from an ordinary quarterback. Pickett’s speed on the football is just fine, and he sometimes struggles with overall throwing power deep downfield and driving the ball down the sidelines.

After watching countless hours of tape on Kenny Pickett, this looks like a safe but unspectacular pick from the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’m very confident that Pickett will have a high floor thanks to his professional preparation and his ability to go through progressions. It’s something I’ve talked about in the past.

Unfortunately, I think it might be a bit maxed out in terms of the benefits it offers. In other words, what you see is what you get.

That might be enough to keep the team’s head above water. The Steelers should have a capable quarterback who can extend play and make good reads. However, in a division that includes Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson, one has to wonder if Pickett will ever be good enough to face these quarterbacks.

For that reason, I almost think the best idea would have been to swing for the fences on a quarterback with an upside. I know I am not alone in this line of thinking. Someone like Malik Willis or Matt Corral would have offered more tools to work with, but weren’t as pro-ready (a trade-off I would have been willing to make).

What worries me about Pickett is that as an NFL player, he might end up falling somewhere in the lineup of quarterbacks Andy Dalton, Teddy Bridgewater, Daniel Jones. In my mind, getting stuck in QB limbo is just as detrimental as pulling out of a QB altogether, largely because of the time spent essentially going nowhere.

When all is said and done, I hope the Steelers did the right thing. I’ve spent a lot of time on quarterbacks this year, and haven’t given one above a second-round rating. Still, if Kenny Pickett turns out to be a franchise quarterback, I’ll never be so happy to admit I was wrong.

Martin E. Berry