Kenny Pickett: Game 11 Grade

Kenny Pickett Game Grade
Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

Kenny Pickett is now the starting quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers. How Pickett performs is the biggest story in the Steel City from this point forwardFor the rest of the season I’ll be grading Pickett’s performances for each game. Reminder – these posts are just grading the individual game each week. This is not a season-long grade or an indication if Pickett is “The Guy”. Welcome to Kenny Pickett: Game Grade.

January 8th – Cleveland Browns

It’s the final Kenny Pickett: Game Grade of the season! Whether you’ve kept up with the whole series, read just a couple, or this is your first one – I really appreciate it! If you haven’t already be sure to check out all of my grades of Pickett’s games here. I’ll also have some sort of recap of all of these grades up on the site in a week or two.

To get into this game against Cleveland – there sure were a mix of qualities. On one hand, Pittsburgh had their second-highest scoring output of the season. On the other, Kenny Pickett had his worst completion percentage of the season. Pickett was 13/29 for 195 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions on Sunday. He also took one sack for six yards, and rushed three times for one yard.

Let’s dive into some of our categories to determine the final Kenny Pickett: Game Grade.


Ok let’s address the elephant in the room. Kenny Pickett’s accuracy in this one was pretty bad. It shows both statistically (season-low 45% completion percentage) and on film. Pickett’s ball placement on Sunday was all over the map – especially in the first quarter.

The low completion percentage last week was excused to some extent because the incomplete passes were on a lot of well-contested balls. While there was some of that this week, the Browns have two really strong young corners in Greg Newsome and Martin Emerson, there were a lot of balls just not put on good spots, or that missed their marks completely.

A lot of the accuracy issues can probably be explained because of the pressure put on Pickett by the Cleveland defensive line. Something we’ll address next.

Pocket Presence

The pocket presence in this one was just OK for Pickett. While he took just one sack that counted, another was called back due to a Cleveland penalty, Pickett was never fully comfortable in the pocket in Week 18. The Browns front was able to quickly collapse the pocket and take away the air space around Pickett. This forced him to make throws without a strong base, or make them on the run.

Fortunately for Pittsburgh and Pickett the young QB was able to make plays out of structure. But from within the pocket Pickett struggled. It would have been nice to see Pickett be able to relocate and maneuver within the pocket like he had in some of the more recent weeks. But for some reason on Sunday Pickett was not able to operate between the tackles.

Decision Making/Playmaking

I’m adding to a regular category this week with “Playmaking”. As the season has progressed we’ve seen Kenny Pickett make more and more plays out of structure. Using his athleticism to break the pocket, find an open area and make a pass. Putting all of these skills together has allowed him to make smarter plays and is a huge reason for the decrease in turnovers.

In a game where he was so uncomfortable in the pocket it was important for Pickett to be able to escape and make throws. One thing that was very noticeable this week, was his ability to create plays in the middle of the field from outside the pocket. There were at least two passes to Diontae Johnson and one to Pat Freiermuth that were completed over the middle with Pickett outside of the pocket. This will be an important skill for Pickett moving forward.


For some of his faults in this one, Pickett still led the Steelers to their second-highest point total of the season. And it might’ve been the highest had Najee Harris not fumbled at the goal line on the team’s first possession. But Pickett had his opportunities missed as well. Pittsburgh twice settled for field goals from Clevelands 31 yard line or closer, with one of those possessions starting near midfield after an interception.

Pickett was however highly effective one third down. For the day Pittsburgh was 9/15 on the money down but Pickett in particular had a lot of success. He was 7/9 for 120 yards and a touchdown on third down for the day. Continuing to show his clutch ability which has gotten better and better each week.

There were some other missed opportunities as well that could have boosted the numbers all around. There was a play where Pickett threw to Johnson in the second quarter for an incompletion with Steven Sims running wide open heading toward the end zone. Another case of Pickett locking on to his first read for just a hair too long.

He also had two deep shots to Johnson down the left side that were both very close to touchdowns. One was incomplete but the Steelers were awarded a pass interference penalty, and the other was well-covered by Newsome in the end zone.

There will always be plays on either side that a small change could change outcomes. But 28 points and high efficiency on third down are great points to end the season on.

Final Grade – C

This grade came down to either a C or C+ for me. So I went back in the archives to find where I’d graded Pickett similarly. I gave him a C+ in the Raiders game where he had very good pocket presence with decent production and accuracy. He got a C in the Saints game where he was bad in the pocket, wasn’t great with accuracy, and just OK in production. I think he was slightly better in Week 18 than he was against the Saints, but not as good as Week 16 against the Raiders.

Seeing Pickett regress from the last couple of weeks in the pocket doesn’t feel great for me. That skill was my biggest concern for Pickett coming into this year. His accuracy issues in this one were also a big mark against him. Still, the production overall for this game was there, which is why the grade isn’t bad.

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