Steelers Super Bowl Champ Addresses Kenny Pickett’s ‘High Ceiling’

Kenny Pickett

Getty A two-time Super Bowl champion explained why Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett has a high ceiling.

Kenny Pickett doesn’t have the prettiest numbers through the first eight games of his career. He still has just 3 touchdowns versus 8 interceptions and has averaged only 6.0 yards per pass.

His net yards per pass attempt average of 5.02 is ranked dead last at 35th among eligible quarterbacks this season.

But the Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback appears to be making small — sometimes even significant — improvements every week. Former Steelers defensive tackle and current KDKA analyst Chris Hoke has taken notice of his development.

“Here’s what I love about Kenny Pickett,” Hoke said while appearing as a guest on The Cook & Joe Show on 93.7 The Fan. “He learns. Very rarely does he make the same mistake over and over and over again.

“That’s what I love about him, and [why] I really think he has a high ceiling because he’s growing. We’re watching this young man grow before our eyes.”

Pickett didn’t throw a touchdown pass in the 24-17 victory against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 12, but he still had arguably his best game of his rookie season. He completed 20 of 28 passes for 174 yards while also rushing for 32 yards.

Kenny Pickett Showing Tangible Growth

Sometimes it’s difficult for a fan to see concrete development from an athlete during a game or even during a season. But taking a closer look at two plays from Week 12 showcase what Hoke is talking about in regards to Pickett growing “before our eyes.”

During the first half against the Colts, Pickett threw a short pass to running back Anthony McFarland in the flat. But Indianapolis safety Rodney McLeod anticipated the short throw and stopped McFarland for a loss.

On the ESPN telecast, analyst Troy Aikman explained that with the safety driving on the flat receiver, Pickett’s pass in that situation has to go to the receiver running a slant behind the driving safety.

It was as if Pickett was listening.

Later in the game, the Steelers ran the same concept, and this time, with the Colts safety again anticipating a throw to the flat, Pickett hit wideout Diontae Johnson on the slant pattern for a 9-yard gain.

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That throw didn’t light up the stat sheet, but it’s a sign of growth. If that continues with Pickett, the Steelers will have a better chance of avoiding target share issues among their wide receivers.

Pickett’s 174 passing yards in Week 12 were his fewest in a game in which he started and finished this season. But he made key plays when the Steelers needed them, especially in the second half when he led Pittsburgh on a touchdown drive.

To jump-start that possession, Pickett completed a 13-yard pass to George Pickens on third-and-9.

Mike Tomlin on Kenny Pickett’s Growth

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin shares Hoke’s assessment on Pickett’s development this season.

“He’s getting better every week, and it’s in a very natural way because of experience,” Tomlin told the media during his postgame press conference on November 28. “He’s a competitor, he’s smart, but there’s still a lot of meat on the bone.”

The key phrase being, “meat on the bone.” One of the biggest negatives on Pickett during the draft process last offseason was his upside. Draft experts compared the former Pitt quarterback’s ceiling to the upside of Kirk Cousins and Derek Carr.’s Lance Zierlein compared Pickett to Andy Dalton in his prime.

Those signal-callers have had decent NFL careers, but teams draft quarterbacks in the first round in the hopes that they will win more than one career playoff game, which is what those three signal-callers have won combined.

But with his midseason growth and six more weeks to continue improving, there’s hope Pickett can be considerably better next year and become an NFL franchise quarterback.

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