Kenny Pickett: Game 6 Grade

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(AP Photo/Matt Durisko)

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.&nbsp;For 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.

November 20th – Cincinatti Bengals

Kenny Pickett was 25/42 for 265 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Pickett also had two carries for 14 yards and was sacked twice. It was the second game in a row that Pickett did not turn the ball over – the first time he’s accomplished the feat in his rookie season.

It was a tale of two halves in this game for Kenny Pickett and the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the first half Pickett was 14/19 for 141 yards and one touchdown and the Steelers scored 20 points. It was a near perfect first half when you also consider the Steelers were winning at halftime.

But in the second half things changed. Pickett was just 11/23 for 124 yards in the third and fourth quarters, and also took both of his sacks on the day in the half. Pittsburgh scored just 10 points.

Let’s dive into the tape and results a bit and look at our categories to determine Pickett’s grade for Week 11.

Decision Making

It was a strong day for Pickett in regards to decision making. No turnovers is a good sign and Pickett continues to lower his turnover-worthy play numbers. There were two separate throws in the red zone however that were nearly intercepted. Late in the game after the T.J. Watt interception Pickett took a shot in the end zone to Tight End Zach Gentry, and appears to have completely not seen Safety Jessie Bates. The same thing happened on the final drive with Wide Receiver Gunner Olszewski. Whether he was having trouble spotting Bates, or just trusted his arm, both were plays that could have cost the Steelers points.

Other than that it was a solid outing. Not too many opportunities blatantly missed, and Pickett continued to show the ability to know when to throw the ball away, vs trying to make a play.

Pocket Presence

Kenny Pickett’e pocket presence was also strong in this one. Pickett took just two sacks on the day, neither of which I attribute to him. He also showed the ability to move around in the pocket with his eyes downfield and make a throw. Last week we were impressed by Pickett’s running (eight carries for 51 yards) but it appeared that Pickett was focused on being able to move around while still looking to pass.

Pickett did run the ball on two designed runs, but never decided to take off in the moment. I’d like to see him balance these skills, but it was good to see this end of the spectrum. Pickett’s pocket presence was much better in this one than last week.

Accuracy

Pickett’s accuracy was fine in this one. Not as poor as last week against the New Orleans Saints, but still not perfect. On the same drive after the Watt interception, Pickett had an incomplete pass to Wide Receiver Diontae Johnson that didn’t stand a chance. Looking back you can see where mechanically he got held up, and the ball went straight to Johnson’s feet.

Earlier in the game Pickett attempted a pass to Running Back Najee Harris on a wheel route headed towards the end zone. Harris was covered by Defensive End Trey Hendrickson. It wasn’t a terrible pass, and Harris had a chance on it. But I would have liked to seen that ball go to the end zone and let Harris get under it. Take advantage of the speed matchup against Hendrickson. Instead, it was lofted for a jump ball which Harris was unable to bring down.

We did get a number of strong deep ball throws as well – including a 24-yard touchdown completion to Wide Receiver George Pickens. It’s the longest touchdown pass for Pickett so far. And in the first quarter we saw redemption for a missed play in the Saints game. Pickett had Pickens on a deep crosser on the second drive of the game and hit him on target for 22 yards. A similar throw and route last week was thrown behind Pickens for an incomplete in that one.

Production

This was by far Pickett’s best game from a production standpoint. Pittsburgh scored 30 points on the day and went 8/17 on third down. It was also the first time Pickett threw for over 200 yards since Week 7. There were some opportunities missed with two red zone field goals after defensive interceptions.

The second half from a personal and team stand point also lacked production. The team punted on five of the eight possessions in the half. Cincinnati was able to make Pickett jumpy in the after halftime which hurt his timing and accuracy.

Final Grade – B-

The first half was so, so good. I just want to hang on to that feeling and give a B or even B+. But that second half was as big a turnaround as one could get without turnovers. That falls more to the whole team than Pickett specifically. But Pickett displayed good pocket awareness and decision making, with improved accuracy and much improved production. All in all it was a solid performance for Kenny Pickett.

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