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 forward. Pittsburgh did secure a win this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, despite Pickett going out in the third quarter injured. But we should still grade his performance to that point. With that said, let’s keep a running log of Pickett’s performances in each contest. Welcome to – Kenny Pickett: Game 2 Grade
October 16th – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kenny Pickett went 11/18 for 67 yards and one touchdown on Sunday, October 16th. It was Pickett’s first career passing touchdown, and it came on the first opening drive touchdown for the Steelers since Week 10 last season. Pickett would leave the game injured in the third quarter before Mitchell Trubisky came in to seal the victory.
Let’s get to Pickett’s play for the game and his grade.
Kenny Pickett’s decision-making in this one was not as strong as it was last week. There were multiple times Pickett’s quick trigger led to missed opportunities downfield had he waited for just another second. One of these decisions in particular came in the opening drive of the third quarter.
After an 89-yard kick return by Steven Sims Pittsburgh began their drive at the 12-yard line. Tampa Bay was able to hold them to a field goal after Pickett went just 1/3 for five yards. On the lone completion which carried Diontae Johnson out of bounds, Pickett missed Tight End Zach Gentry becoming wide open in the back of the end zone.
There were also times Pickett forced throws to the outside to either Johnson or George Pickens. With Pittsburgh’s offense using a lot of comeback and curl routes on the outside, timing and separation is key. Pickett has faith in his receivers but can lock in on those two guys and get himself in trouble. Those timing routes to the sideline are very easy to read especially when run as often as Pittsburgh runs them. Eventually, one of these will be picked and returned on Pittsburgh.
Overall the decision-making was just “fine” at best in this one. But luckily it didn’t lead to any costly mistakes.
Pickett did a bit better standing in the pocket in this one. He did however make plays with his legs when he needed to. Big difference in this contest was he only used his legs when necessary. Pickett took just one sack on the day on a play he had no chance, and had two rushes for 16 yards. He also did well to work himself into position to throw the ball away when necessary.
It’s hard to grade arm strength when we didn’t see Pickett push the ball down the field. This week he had an “Intended Air Yards Per Pass Attempt” number of just 4.2, after a 7.0 outing last week. Because of this team’s use of passes outside the numbers, we also didn’t see Pickett make many tight window throws. This category gets an “incomplete” this week.
Obviously the production was not there in this one. The opening drive and script were well planned and executed however. But with a lackluster rest of the first half, and a squandered opportunity to open the second half, Pickett’s production in this one was poor. Even without the points last week, Pickett still moved the team down the field for over 300 yards. Four out of the six drives completed by Pickett were three-and-outs. That number was four out of ten drives last week (excluding the two-play drive ending in an interception).
Final Grade – C-
While the offense itself is limiting, there were more missed opportunities in this game than there were last week. While Pickett did improve in the pocket, his overall decision-making and production took a dip this week.
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