The Steelers are now back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, facing down a long regular season that looks a lot more promising given how things have gone leading up to it. Finishing just above .500 last year, they anticipate being able to compete with any team in the league this season with second-year QB Kenny Pickett leading the way.
They’ve done a great deal to address what they identified as their shortcomings during the offseason, which included addressing the offensive and defensive lines as well as the secondary and the inside linebacker room, which is nearly entirely different from last year. The results have been positive so far.
Even well into the regular season and beyond, there are going to be plenty of questions that need answered. When will the core rookies get to play, or even start? Is the depth sufficient where they upgraded? Can they stand toe-to-toe with the Bengals and the other top teams in the league? We’ll try to frame the conversation in relevant ways as long as you stick with us throughout the season, as we have for many years.
Question: Is sitting Kenny Pickett in his own best interest?
The Pittsburgh Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin did not want to rush Kenny Pickett into the starting lineup at quarterback a year ago. Tomlin seemed to feel he had no choice, however, with the way the unit was struggling under Mitch Trubisky, even if much of it was beyond the quarterback position.
With an improved offensive line and a running game that is not incompetent, however, it seems as though it may be the quarterback position right now that is most at fault, as it concerns personnel issues. Coaching and schematics are an entirely separate discussion.
Pickett is just not playing well, period. And it’s hard to play your way out of these sorts of struggles, especially for a young player who isn’t really the been-there, done-that type. He has no “complete” games. He has game-winning drives, but that mode of success necessitates immense ball security and a consistently successful defense.
The question on my mind today is not if sitting Pickett would be in the Steelers’ best interest this season, but rather if this is what Pickett needs to turn his career around. You can point to his win-loss record, but beyond that, it’s hard to say he has been a very successful quarterback up to this point.
Processing seems to be one of his biggest issues. When he sees on the field what he game-planned for during the week, and that is a heavy dose of man coverage, he can operate well. But throw anything at him that he wasn’t expecting and he struggles to adapt.
It’s not as though these are things he can’t improve upon. But it’s hard to do that in-season when your week is devoted to planning for a specific opponent. He just isn’t where he needs to be, and it is quite possibly jeopardizing his longevity.