Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett led the team to a winning record down the stretch last season, primarily by cutting down on turnovers and making most of the throws he needed to. He didn’t set the world on fire, but he was a solid option on a team on the rise. Heading into 2023, there’s a lot of excitement about Pickett’s growth and development. Still, Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport isn’t sold on the second-year quarterback, ranking the Steelers with the ninth-worst quarterback situation in the league.
“Pickett’s first season was hardly flawless. The 12-game starter was 28th in the league in passing yards per game, throwing for less than 185 yards per contest. He threw just seven touchdown passes all season long against nine interceptions. Among qualifying quarterbacks, only Zach Wilson had a lower passer rating than Pickett’s 76.7,” Davenport writes. “But if Pickett wants to get off this list, he needs to carry last year’s late success over to an entire season.”
I don’t think anyone is arguing that the version of Pickett that struggled with turnovers we saw in the first half of the season last year probably won’t be the guy to lead the Steelers to the playoffs. But circumstances matter, and Pickett was thrust in as the starter in the middle of a Week 4 game and didn’t necessarily have time to prepare. He was learning on the fly, and clearly the bye week helped him reset and settle in, because he looked like a different player during the second half of the season.
With a full offseason to prepare and train like a starting NFL quarterback, any regression back to where Pickett was early in 2022 would be unexpected. In the context of the league now, with so many good, great, and elite quarterbacks, I suppose the Steelers’ situation is more up in the air than a lot of teams. But somehow, Davenport ranked Pittsburgh’s quarterback situation as worse than the Green Bay Packers, who are going to start 2023 with a pretty unknown quantity in Jordan Love.
Love hasn’t looked all that great when he’s played, and he’s the starter in Green Bay after the team traded Aaron Rodgers. I’d be much more comfortable being in Mike Tomlin’s shoes knowing my team is starting Pickett than Matt LaFleur’s with Love.
I’m not particularly concerned about the Steelers’ quarterback situation. That could change if Pickett comes out flat the first few weeks and doesn’t look like the quarterback who led the team on back-to-back game-winning drives with under a minute left, but I don’t share the same concerns Davenport evidently has.
Let’s see if Pickett can prove the doubters wrong in 2023.