Steelers Legend Terry Bradshaw Weighs in on Kenny Pickett

Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long

Getty Fox Sports analyst and former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw talks with analyst Howie Long.

It’s a question that is already being asked — and will continue to be asked — over the course of the next year or two. Is Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Kenny Pickett a franchise quarterback?

When Ben Roethlisberger was drafted in 2004 the answer to that question came quickly, as the No. 11 overall pick broke the rookie passer rating record (with a 98.1) and won all 13 of his regular-season starts. As a rookie, Roethlisberger also flashed the kind of big-play ability that hinted at what he could become with some significant NFL experience under his belt.

Kenny Pickett’s rookie season has gone much differently. He is 2-4 in his first six games as a starter and has produced a lowly 71.8 passer rating, having thrown eight interceptions to date. Optimistic Steelers fans will note that 2022’s No. 20 overall pick has improved in recent weeks, raising his yards per attempt into the 6+ yard range without throwing an interception against either the Saints or Bengals. Critics will highlight how he has just three touchdowns passes in seven appearances, yielding a rookie TD percentage that has him down in Ryan Leaf/Jimmy Clausen territory.

Colin Cowherd to Terry Bradshaw: ‘What do You See From Kenny Pickett?’

That said, Pro Football Hall of Fame Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw recently appeared as a guest on The Herd With Colin Cowherd.

“What do you see from Kenny Pickett?” asked the host at one point.

“I watched him all four years at Pitt. I loved him. When Pittsburgh drafted him — a perfect match,” began the former No. 1 overall pick, before opining about Pickett’s upside potential.

“Is he a super A talent? No. But he is an upper echelon B, okay,” Bradshaw added, before sounding cautiously optimistic that Pickett can be Pittsburgh’s starter for the long term.

“I think they have their guy,” continued Bradshaw. “As I told you, he almost has the ‘it’ thing. I think if you cannot have the it thing and get the it thing, he’s the guy that can get ‘it’ once they put some pieces around him.”

Kenny Pickett: A Modern-Day Billy Kilmer?

Then Bradshaw evoked the name of a quarterback, Billy Kilmer, who he played against in the 1970s. As explained by a 1978 feature in the Washington Post, Kilmer was viewed as a great competitor and leader but lacked the arm strength and physical tools of the top quarterbacks of his day.

“Our scouting-evaluation sheets list ability as rare, exceptional, outstanding and good. As far as the arm, a Bert Jones or a Terry Bradshaw would be rare. Billy’s would be good,” said then-NFL general manager Bobby Beathard in an interview with Leonard Shapiro of the Post.

“You (can) have an arm like Billy Kilmer, as long as you can sit in the pocket, read coverages and not panic,” Bradshaw told Cowherd. “And (Pickett) does all that.”

Except the Steelers are looking for a lot more than what San Francisco, New Orleans and Washington got out of Kilmer, who posted a 61-52-1 record over the course of 16 seasons and had a 71.6 career passer rating, as per Pro Football Reference. Kilmer’s best season came in 1972, when he made the Pro Bowl on the strength of an 84.8 passer rating, having thrown 19 touchdown passes against 11 interceptions.

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