Since before he was drafted, one of the narratives surrounding Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett is that he has a “low ceiling.” In April, shortly before the 2022 draft, one anonymous NFL talent evaluator told Tom Pelissero of NFL Network that Pickett “doesn’t have any goddamn upside.” Another likened him to 2021 New England Patriots first-round pick Mac Jones, saying they are both “probably bottom-half-of-the-league-type starters if it works.”
Yet in that same article, Pelissero noted that some talent evaluators referenced Joe Burrow, who was selected No. 1 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2020.
“Like Pickett, Burrow had smallish hands (9 inches), good-not-great arm strength and strong leadership traits, and he enjoyed a massive jump in his play in his final college season, with improved talent around him,” offered Pelissero.
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QB Coach Tony Racioppi: The Kenny Pickett-Joe Burrow Comparison is ‘Legit’
“I think the Joe Burrow one is legit,” he said, having noted that he has worked with both Pickett and Burrow, having spent the past six years coaching Pickett while also having worked with Burrow at the Manning Passing Academy, where Racioppi coaches alongside Peyton Manning.
“The way they both throw it, they are both better athletes than people think, they are both accurate, they both process information so well, they are both ultra-competitive dudes, they are both quick processors…. They are ultra-confident without being cocky, kinda how you want your quarterback, right? If they walk into a room, everybody kinda gravitates toward them. They are both very similar in that way,” said Racioppi, directly comparing Pickett and Burrow.
That’s why he doesn’t agree with the limited upside narrative that has attached itself to the 24-year-old Oakhurst, N.J. native, who the Steelers drafted No. 20 overall, making him the only quarterback selected in the first two rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft.
“The one thing that’s bothered me through the (draft) process was people saying he’s got the lowest ceiling of the guys in (this) class,” said Racioppi, having talked about how people tend to fall in love with “ridiculous athletic traits,” thereby tending to discount fundamentals, mind, heart and toughness.
Racioppi went on to argue that Pickett has the 5 biggest characteristics NFL teams want in a quarterback: “They all want a guy who can process information quickly, a guy that can anticipate throws, a guy that’s accurate, a guy that has mental toughness, and a guy who is the ultimate competitor in the room — the biggest competitor on the team. Well, listen, that’s Kenny Pickett. That’s five for five right there,” he stated, emphatically.
Of course, Burrow has already proved that he’s a franchise quarterback, having led the Bengals to the Super Bowl in his second season out of LSU. Meanwhile, Pickett is charged with disproving the doubters, including Ian Wharton of Bleacher Report, who called Pittsburgh’s selection of Pickett as “the draft’s biggest mistake.”
The first step toward silencing the naysayers is beating out former No. 2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky and veteran backup Mason Rudolph to win the Steelers’ starting quarterback job.
Racioppi insists that his student is ready for the competition, and if he doesn’t start the season-opener against the Bengals, he will be ready to go when called upon.
“He’ll be ready to get better every single day and whenever his number’s called, he’ll be ready I promise you that,” concluded Racioppi.
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Kenny Pickett’s Jersey is a Top 5 Best-Seller
On June 29, NFL Shop revealed that Kenny Pickett’s No. 8 Steelers jersey is the league’s fourth-best selling jersey of 2022, one spot ahead of Tom Brady.
The only players above Pickett on NFL Shop’s list are quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Josh Allen, and wide receiver Davante Adams.
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