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Kenny Pickett’s touchdown to George Pickens was elite

Once again, Kenny Pickett threw just one touchdown pass in the Steelers’ 27-17 victory over the Buccaneers in a Week 1 preseason game at Raymond James Stadium on Friday night.

Fortunately for Pittsburgh, Pickett only saw action on the initial offensive drive of the game and performed about as flawlessly as you’d like a second-year quarterback to in his preseason lid-lifter.

Pickett completed six of seven passes for 70 yards and that touchdown mentioned above, a 33-yard strike to receiver George Pickens at the 5:14 mark of the first quarter.

Prior to the touchdown to Pickens, Pickett flashed his familiar elite-level trait of throwing accurately while on the run when he connected on passes to receiver Diontae Johnson–including one while rolling to his right and one while rolling to his left.

But it was the touchdown to Pickett that truly put folks on notice that this Pitt product might have a chance to be something special.

Pickett dropped back to pass on third and six from the Pittsburgh 33. He looked off the safety before firing a bullet down the middle to Pickens in between multiple defenders. If you watched the highlight, Pickett couldn’t have handed the ball to Pickens more accurately, as the second-year receiver caught the pass in stride before zigging and zagging his way to the end zone for an impressive touchdown.

The touchdown had everything you want to see from this rebuilding Steelers passing attack:

  • It had Pickett not staring down his receiver and, instead, using his eyes to give himself an extra split-second to complete a pass through a tight window.
  • It had Pickens as the playmaker, and the young receiver made the reception seem almost like an afterthought before he showed off his true talent: Schooling defensive backs on the way to the end zone.
  • It had pinpoint accuracy–I can’t imagine any quarterback in the NFL throwing that pass better than Pickett did. Pickett struggled so much in his rookie season that it was easy to forget how accurate of a passer he was coming out of college, and his precision strike on this score was a strong reminder to everyone.

Perhaps, most importantly, the play had the offense attacking the middle of the field and doing so as if it was a hot knife slicing through a stick of room-temperature butter. How long have fans been waiting for this offense to attack the middle of the field in the passing game? I don’t think it’s happened on a consistent basis this decade.

Obviously, this is no time to talk in absolutes about Pickett’s passing prowess. It was only one preseason game. In fact, it was only one drive of one preseason game, and it was against a lot of Tampa Bay’s backup defenders.

Having said that, Pickett was balling on Friday night, and while he still has many questions left to answer before we know for sure if he’s the real deal, he may have answered one already:

Kenny Pickett has the arm and the accuracy to be an elite passer at the NFL level.


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