With Mike Tomlin’s Pittsburgh Steelers, the standard is the standard. It apparently remains so even after NFL retirement.
The Steelers are 6-3, yet former Steelers offensive lineman Trai Essex made it clear on X (formerly Twitter) following the Week 10 victory against the Green Bay Packers that quarterback Kenny Pickett is not meeting his standards.
“Let me start this out by saying I really want Kenny to succeed,” Essex wrote on X on November 12. “Canada has done him no favors. However, my issue with #8 is that he looks exactly the same as he did last year.
“There is nothing I can point to in his game and say it has gotten better. Am I wrong?”
Essex continued to tweet about Pickett throughout the week. His semi-rant concluded with the hope that he’s wrong about the 25-year-old signal caller.
“I know I’ve been critical of #8 this week, but my sincere hope is that he makes me have to put my size 16 foot in my mouth by the end of the season…..starting this weekend,” Essex tweeted on November 16.
Essex won two Super Bowls with the Steelers in February of 2006 and 2009.
Trai Essex Criticizes Steelers QB Kenny Pickett
But that jump hasn’t happened. Statistically, Pickett is arguably a worse quarterback than he was as a rookie.
Over 12 games in 2022, Pickett posted a 63.0% completion percentage with a 6.2 yards per attempt average. He also had 7 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.
This season, Pickett has a 61.3% completion percentage, 6.4 yards per attempt average, 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.
A lot of that production has come in the fourth quarter, where he owns a 101.5 passer rating. Pickett leads the NFL with 3 fourth-quarter comebacks.
The fourth quarter is obviously the most important part of the game. But Essex argued that he wants to see Pickett play well for more than just one quarter every week.
“I just want one whole game from Pickett where it looks like he’s capable of being the lynchpin for an explosive offense,” Essex wrote on X. “Then we can say that he has it in him at least. The 4th quarters are great. Whole games are better.”
Pickett has actually been a solid quarterback in third quarters as well this season. In the second half overall, he has a 67.5% completion percentage with 3 touchdowns and an interception. His passer rating in the second half of games this season is 95.4.
But in the first half, Pickett has posted a 56.1% completion percentage with 3 touchdowns, 3 interceptions and a 69.3 passer rating.
Essex’s Questions Pickett’s Physical Traits
A lot of Steelers fans share in Essex’s frustrations about Pickett poor performance in the first half this season. But the former offensive lineman also attacked Pickett for his physical traits.
“Serious question: After 21 games, what about Kenny’s physical QB attributes can you look at and say he does that consistently good? (And don’t say win).
“I ask physical only because I do believe his greatest trait is leadership.”
Former NFL quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan of The QB School YouTube channel has often pointed to Pickett’s up-and-down play as his biggest issue.
“You have to admire that [the Steelers] keep finding ways to win these games,” O’Sullivan said on November 3. “I thought Kenny sprayed a bunch of balls, missed some balls, but he also made some plays (against the Tennessee Titans).
“So it’s the kind of consistently inconsistent vibe that’s just really hard to survive in the league playing week in and week out.”
O’Sullivan added in his analysis of the Steelers offense against the Titans that there was “better opportunity” for more from the unit based on the game plan.
“That’s never a good sign for a quarterback,” said O’Sullivan.