Clark: Steelers Need To Better Support Kenny Pickett To Avoid Being ‘Minced Meat And Lunch Meat’ Against Ravens
It seems like the state of the Pittsburgh Steelers offense falls in line with the chicken and the egg analogy. The players aren’t executing on the field to the level that they need to be successful, but the scheme by OC Matt Canada isn’t exactly doing the players any favors by working to their individual and collective strengths.
The same analogy could be applied to QB Kenny Pickett and his rough start to the 2023 season, looking like he’s regressed from the player we saw at the end of 2022 and during the preseason. Plenty of blame falls on Pickett himself and his individual play on the field to start the year, but former Steelers S Ryan Clark mentioned on Get Up this morning that the Steelers must do a better job of supporting their rattled, beat-up quarterback and help him get out of this slump.
“You’re playing a Baltimore Ravens team that went into Cleveland and absolutely ate their dog food,” Clark said on Get Up, which aired live on ESPN. “And if you can’t find a way to protect him, if you can’t find a way to get a run game, it’s going to be minced meat and lunch meat for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Kenny Pickett has to be better, but they have to be better at finding ways to help him be successful.”
When you look at the issues Pickett has been dealing with this season, a lot falls on his shoulders. Alex Kozora of Steelers Depot highlighted two issues in his game that stick out in a recent piece, stating that he has poor pocket presence and lack of sideline vertical throws stick out from his tape. Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also wrote about how Pickett’s jitters in the pocket and hesitancy to throw to receivers running open shows a lack of trust in his own ability to execute as well as in his receivers. There’s some truth there as Pickett has missed open throws routinely through the first four weeks or simply has been making the wrong read, throwing the ball into coverage rather than taking the open target.
Still, Pittsburgh’s offense hasn’t been doing him any favors. The running game was basically non-existent last Sunday against the Texans outside of a valiant effort by RB Najee Harris in the second half. The offensive line has looked poor in the run blocking department as well as in pass protection, with Pickett taking 11 sacks through the first four games of the season. The play calling also hasn’t set up Pickett to be very successful either as seen on Pittsburgh’s miserable fourth-and-one play. Pickett dropped back to pass with no play-action and no quick routes toward the first-down marker, ultimately leading to him getting sacked and hurting his knee on the play.
Pickett must take ownership of his own sloppy play in the first quarter of the season and hold himself accountable to have better pocket presence and do a better job of reading the field. However, Canada and the rest of the offense needs to support him rather than put more on his shoulders by leaning on the running game and doing a better job to protect him.
Pickett isn’t a Patrick Mahomes or a Josh Allen, a quarterback who can improvise and will the Steelers to victory when things are going wrong around them. Pickett needs a positive environment around him to be successful, which is what Pittsburgh has lacked to start the season. Creating more of a positive environment offensively will go a long way toward helping Pickett receive the support he needs to better execute on the field, allowing him to settle in and gather more confidence in himself and his ability to produce.