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 fell to the Miami Dolphins in this one in part due to some costly turnovers by Pickett. 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 3 Grade.
October 23rd – Miami Dolphins
Kenny Pickett went 32/44 for 257 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions on Sunday night against the Dolphins. Pickett also ran the ball three times for 20 yards and took two sacks for 11 yards.
On the plus side, Pickett did show the ability to move the ball downfield with four drives going at least ten plays or more. On the downside Pittsburgh had just ten points to show for the effort, and Pickett had two costly turnovers to end the game. He did however have his first passing touchdown to a wide receiver.
With that said, let’s get to some of the categories.
This is the big one this week. Pickett continues to take check downs too quickly. Often coming off of further developing routes just before the appear open. This trait looks worse with each passing week when in theory, Pickett should be becoming more comfortable holding on to the football. Not only that, but the offense and route concepts as a whole seem to be getting more intricate. This would indicate an increase in confidence in Pickett, and should makes things more complicated for the defense.
Now the interceptions. I dinged Pickett for just two of the three. The first one to Chase Claypool was a result of Claypool falling on the play. However the other two were on Pickett.
His second interception came with three minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh was in the middle of a 12-play drive where they gained 52 yards over the span of almost five minutes. The Steelers were on Miami’s 30 yard line on the final play of the drive while they were down 10-16. Pickett was unfortunately staring down Wide Receiver Diontae Johnson on the play, making the job easy for Jevon Holland who was playing a robber coverage on the play. Defenses have to know by now that Pickett is going to make decisions quickly. If he spends two full seconds looking at one player, chances are that is where he is going.
The final interception came on what was essentially the final play of the game. Pittsburgh was able to get the ball back quickly and went on a ten play, 62 yard drive in the final two and a half minutes. With the ball on Miami’s 25 Pickett rolled to the left with space in front of him. Now, we can quibble with the decision to throw the ball at all, but lets talk about the throw.
As Pickett scrambled he brought the safety, Holland, down toward him. This left Johnson 10-15 yards of room towards the back of the end zone and middle of the field to work with, with his closest defender trailing him near the front pylon. Pickett throws a floating jump ball to that very pylon that Noah Igbinoghene picks off uncontested. So not only was the decision to throw it questionable (Pickett had time and space to run, or throw it away), but the execution of the throw was poor.
I’m only going with two categories in this one, because it feels to be all that is necessary. Pickett did post a good completion percentage in this one (73%) but it only led to 257 yards of production. Against the Buffalo Bills when Pickett had a similar number of completions it resulted in 327 yards. So there was a lot of check downs. The ten points on the day is also a step back from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game where Pickett led the team to 13 of its 20 points on the day.
All ten of Pittsburgh’s points came in the first half, where they scored on two of their four possessions. In the second half they had seven drives resulting in five punts and the two turnovers. You could say there is a coaching issue in there somewhere, but Pickett needed to be able to react to the Dolphin’s halftime adjustment at some point. Which he appeared to be doing with the two long drives to end the game. But the interceptions say otherwise.
Final Grade: D
I know. It feels harsh. But two turnovers that were that bad on potential game winning drives cannot be overlooked. Especially for the points and yardage totals that go along with it. Pickett definitely had some great throws and good moments in this one, but in the end it was a poor performance. If you take an exam worth 100 points and get 50 questions right worth one point each, but miss the last two questions that were 25 points a piece, that still a 50/100.
The important thing is Kenny Pickett can bounce back from this. If those two throws don’t happen and Pittsburgh get’s ten or even 14 points on the drives it’s a much different story. But for now, we’re at a low point in Pickett’s very early and very young career.
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