Pittsburgh Steelers first-round pick Kenny Pickett has played just 40 snaps in his team’s first two preseason games, but 2012 No. 2 overall pick Robert Griffin III has seen enough to anoint this year’s No. 20 overall selection as the team’s Week 1 starter.
“Kenny Pickett is ready to play now,” proclaimed the former Washington and Baltimore quarterback on Twitter, delivering the main thrust of his message in all caps. “After working out with him before the draft, I saw his dedication, ability to make every throw and an advanced football IQ. Steelers have a good problem at QB,” concluded Griffin, who played in 56 career games over the course of seven seasons, as per Pro Football Reference.
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Steelers Beat Writer ‘Would Wait’ to Start Kenny Pickett
Yet Pittsburgh may not be so quick to make Pickett its Week 1 starter, owing to the ongoing struggles of Pittsburgh’s rebuilt offensive line.
Never mind that Pickett is 19-of-22 for 171 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a quarterback rating of 142.1 in his first two preseason appearances.
Never mind that he led the Steelers on a five-play, 63-yard touchdown drive to end the first half “mere days after doing something similar at the end of his first preseason game,” says The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly.
The problem is that Pittsburgh’s offensive line couldn’t run block or pass block this past Saturday evening in Jacksonville.
“Steelers running backs had 10 rushes for 10 yards (and) the top two quarterbacks were pressured on eight of 15 dropbacks (per Pro Football Focus), relates Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Not only that “there were three holding penalties on the offensive line, four times the quarterback was hit, once he was sacked and another pressure forced a safety.”
Indeed “it was a rough showing for the Steelers’ line in run blocking. The unit earned a collective 44.6 run blocking grade on 13 such snaps,” notes Kambui Bomani of Pro Football Focus, adding context to the situation. “On the pass-blocking side, the Steelers allowed 10 total pressures, with (left tackle) Dan Moore Jr. accounting for five.”
So while Moore may have tremendous upside potential — at least in the eyes of former Steelers offensive lineman Ramon Foster — he hasn’t looked good in the preseason.
“Moore is a player they handed the left tackle spot to even though he did very little last year as a rookie to show he is ready for it. He didn’t have much competition at all this camp, and he also hasn’t shown enough to give anyone confidence he is ready to take a step forward,” offered Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Sunday.
Arguably even more worrisome is the play of new staring right guard James Daniels, who inked a three-year $26.5 million contract in free agency in mid-March.
“He didn’t play well in the first preseason game against Seattle, but he had some moments in camp that made it feel like he was turning things around,” added Zeise. “On Saturday in Jacksonville, though, a strong case could be made that he was the worst among all the regulars that played in the game. He got beat too often, missed some blocks in the run game and had at least one holding call that was significant.”
Under the circumstances, “I would wait” to make Pickett the starting quarterback, concluded Kaboly, at least until the offensive line has had more of a chance to jell.
‘Trubisky is Faster, Quicker, Niftier’
That said, free agent acquisition and former No. 2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky might be relatively well equipped to handle the challenges of playing behind Pittsburgh’s suspect offensive line.
Not only does Trubisky have 50 games of experience as a starter, “Trubisky is faster, quicker, niftier and looks to throw when he escapes rather than run,” says Kaboly, while contrasting the former Chicago Bears QB with Pickett. “Plus, Trubisky is better at moving the pocket and throwing,” which will no doubt come in handy during early season games at Cincinnati, against New England and at Cleveland.
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