A recent segment on ESPN’s NFL Live continues the public apology of one NFL insider who cast doubts about Pittsburgh Steelers QB Kenny Pickett’s abilities, as late as this spring.
It also shows that the Pickett bandwagon is not only gaining steam, but gaining adherents as well.
Importantly, Pickett is gaining adherents from NFL insiders, not just talk show hosts and hometown fans.
The segment started with NFL Live’s Laura Rutledge asking former NFL coach and ESPN insider Herm Edwards about Pickett’s sophomore year.
“Are you high on him going into year two, coach?” asked Rutledge.
Edwards wasn’t just complimentary, but effusive in his praise of Pickett.
“Absolutely. He’s the MVP for the preseason,” said Edwards, who played 10 years in the NFL as a cornerback and served as coach for the New York Jets and the Kansas City Chiefs. “And I think this: He’s a 25-plus touchdown guy.”
‘Look Out for the Steelers’
As a rookie in 2022, Pickett threw only 7 touchdowns versus 9 interceptions. They weren’t bad numbers, but were fairly typical of a rookie quarterback in the NFL.
25 touchdowns would be a big step up in year two for Pickett.
Josh Allen, arguably a top-3 NFL quarterback by comparison, threw 20 touchdowns in his second NFL season.
“This offense, all of a sudden has found a way to get the ball down the field,” Edwards added about the Steelers pre-season output. “He [Pickett] has thrown the ball [with perfect] accuracy. He’s got confidence in this offense. Look out for the Steelers. They’re going to score points.”
Edward said that the Steelers’ offense will need to score 25 points a game.
“You got to score 25 or more if you’re going to win in this division,” he concluded.
Rutledge then asked former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky to break down the tape on one play to wide receiver Diontae Johnson.
His takeaway was that Pickett is executing the offense to perfection.
“Coach [Edwards] talked about perfect. There’s the perfect throw. There were perfect eyes. It’s the perfect route. And it’s the perfect rhythm to this play,” said Orlovksy.
Rutledge responded with words that will either keep the bandwagon moving, or prove to be premature if Pickett fails to live up to them.
“Pickett perfection! Okay!” said Rutledge.
Orlovsky was particularly impressed by the use of Pickett’s eyes in looking off the safety to gain the extra inches the wide receiver needed for the route.
He said that by Pickett looking off the safety as he did, he was able to “try to get in maybe one more yard on that hash to again, take advantage of that space that [he] created” by keeping the safety towards the middle of the field.
The praise from Orlovsky is significant because two weeks ago he apologized on NFL Live for underrating the quarterback-wide receiver duo of Pickett and Pickens.
According to the chart provided by NFL Live, the Pickett-to-Pickens connection shared a QBR, or total quarterback rating, of 98, which is higher than some more heralded quarterback–wide receiver connections.
In May, Orlovsky criticized Pickett as “mechanically flawed” and compared him to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ backup quarterback, Mitch Trubisky.
“Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky are pretty much the same player,” Orlovsky said. “They are guys that are good athletes that use their legs to help them become better players. They are average with their accuracy and mechanically flawed.”
And that, apparently, is not proving to be the perfect comparison—at least for the preseason.