The Pittsburgh Steelers could have a conundrum on their hands.
While the Steelers pulled off a victory over the New Orleans Saints in Week 10, they did so without any major contribution from starting quarterback Kenny Pickett. The rookie continues to struggle in his first season in the league, failing to throw a touchdown pass in the win while mustering a passer rating of just 79.7.
Pickett’s lack of progress through his first six games and has led to major concern from Tribune Live’s Mark Madden. The Steelers analyst didn’t hold back in his assessment of the 24-year-old quarterback, ripping Pickett for his “nervous, sloppy, unsure” play.
“Pickett looks nervous, sloppy, unsure, and obviously so on all counts,” said Madden on Monday, November 14. “His throwing is inaccurate. He too often skips out of the pocket when pressure doesn’t dictate. He seems a one-read quarterback. Pickett’s so-called swag is in short supply and mostly fictional.”
Pickett Has Struggled Drastically in Rookie Season
Through six games and five starts, Pickett hasn’t looked the part of a franchise quarterback. He’s thrown just two touchdowns versus eight interceptions for a 68.8 quarterback rating. His touchdown percentage (1.0 percent) ranks dead last among starting quarterbacks and below Mitch Trubisky’s touchdown percentage (2.3 percent) — which is actually the second-lowest mark among all qualifying quarterbacks.
Madden calls out Pickett for his “game manager” level of play and the fact that he hasn’t shown he’s ready to play at the NFL level despite 52 games of experience at the University of Pittsburgh. Pickett played five years in college and is actually the same age as third-year quarterbacks Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa.
“Pickett’s either being used like a game manager or choosing that method through his reads,” said Madden. “A first-round draft pick shouldn’t be turning into a mere game manager just six games into his career. But for whatever reason, Pickett isn’t playing well and isn’t getting better. Anyone who says otherwise is lying or refuses to see what’s happening.”
Furthermore, Madden goes so far as to state that if Pickett doesn’t make any progress before the end of the season, the 2022 campaign will have been a disaster for Pittsburgh.
“It would be a disaster if Pickett plays the rest of the season and doesn’t improve,” says Madden. “It would make the season a failure.”
Madden on Pickett’s Level of Play: He ‘Stinks’
Madden says that Pickett “stinks” right now.
“Right now, I think he stinks,” Madden said. “I haven’t seen him make any discernible progress since he got in that Jets game.”
If there’s any argument for Pickett’s lackluster level of play, it may be offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s play calling. Pittsburgh’s offensive unit has struggled since Canada’s arrival last season. The 2021 Steelers ranked 21st in points per game and this season’s unit ranks second-to-last in the NFL, averaging just 15.6 points per game.
“It’s still Canada. It’s still the game plan,” Madden said in reference from Steelers fans. “I just hear all this (garbage) where it’s not his fault. But is he the only quarterback in history that doesn’t impact the winning or losing, and he is just a bystander? It’s the most important position in football.”
If Pickett doesn’t show the qualities of being the Steelers’ franchise quarterback before the end of the season, Pittsburgh has a real conundrum on their hands.