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Steelers fans will stop arguing over Kenny Pickett once he starts playing well

Despite the Steelers not playing football on Sunday or Monday (they played on Thursday, duh!), their fans couldn’t help but spend that time comparing every other NFL quarterback to Kenny Pickett.

Why? Maybe because every single one of them seemed better than Pickett, and they have for a while.

At least that’s how it feels when you watch Steelers games, games that don’t involve the Steelers, and then Google “Statistical leaders at quarterback.”

Pickett is currently 25th in the NFL in passing yards with 1,490 through eight games. He’s 26th in yards per passing attempt at 6.5. Pickett is averaging 186.3 passing yards per game, which is 31st in the league. Pickett has thrown six touchdowns in 2023, which is tied for 27th-best. Pickett ranks 26th in passer rating at 81.6.

You get the picture.

You also get why the X app is filled with non-stop debates about Pickett’s abilities. Some fans are in the Total Bust Camp, while others are proud members of All He Does is Win.

The winning part is hard to argue, considering the Steelers are 5-3 despite having the 29th-best offense in the NFL. The Steelers are actually 12-8 over their last 20 games with Pickett as their starting quarterback.

Having said that, it is easier to argue against Pickett if you actually watch the games. If you do that, you can argue all day long against Pickett’s abilities as an NFL quarterback. They don’t appear to be great, except in the fourth quarter, when something magical happens. I don’t know what it is about Pickett in the final period, but he now has seven game-winning drives so far in his career that only began in Week 4 of the 2022 campaign. But isn’t “magical” just some intangible similar to grit, moxie and/or courage?

Shouldn’t we be seeing more tangible evidence of Pickett’s abilities by now? We saw evidence of it during the preseason when Pickett led his offense to five touchdowns in as many drives and completed some of the most precise passes any quarterback will throw all year–I’m talking the preseason, regular season and postseason.

We saw it during the game-winning drive against the Titans on TNF when Pickett completed a 32-yard pass to receiver Diontae Johnson on third and six, a throw that couldn’t have been more accurate if it was a handoff. Why don’t we see more of that from Pickett? Why do we only get glimpses of that kind of greatness sprinkled in the middle of a ton of inaccurate throws week in and week out?

Pickett now has 13 touchdown passes in 21 career appearances–or one less than rookie C.J. Stroud has in eight games. Big deal, though, right? The Steelers are 5-3, while Houston is 4-4. It’s all about winning. Besides, Pickett has only thrown four interceptions in 2023. Furthermore, Pittsburgh is 12-5 since last year’s bye, and winning is all that matters in the NFL.

Actually, it’s not the only thing that matters; having a franchise quarterback is also a huge part of the equation, and Stroud, who only has one interception in 2023 and looks a helluva lot more dynamic than Pickett, seems to be on his way to becoming one.

The way Pickett is playing, with moxie and other intangibles still at the top of the list when fans talk about why they think he’ll be good, he’s on his way to becoming the next Taylor Heinicke, an undrafted free-agent from Old Dominion in 2015. Heinicke has carved out a nice career for himself as a journeyman quarterback; that’s an epic ROI for an UDFA, but not for a first-round pick.

Am I saying Pickett will go on to be a journeyman? No, but I’m not not saying that, either.

Do I hate Pickett and want to see him fail? No, just the opposite. I think it would be a great if the kid who played at Pitt and shared the same facilities as the Steelers for five years went on to become a successful replacement for the legendary Ben Roethlisberger. But I’m also a realist who always knew that the odds of Pittsburgh finding its next franchise quarterback so soon after Roethlisberger’s retirement were quite low.

Just study NFL history if you don’t believe me.

To reiterate, it seems you can only be a Pickett hater or in the Pickett cult (a bit dramatic, but you just try liking anything sports-related these days without being called a cultist).

But that’s Pickett’s fault. It’s his subpar play that has led to the doubters doubting and the believers doubling down on their devotion.

We never had these kinds of debates about Roethlisberger. I mean, we did, but they were usually started by morons or Ravens fans (I know, same-difference).

Does Pickett need to become Patrick Mahomes in a week? No, but we need to start seeing some progress. Does the progress have to be linear? No, but we have to see evidence, and not just late in games. We need to see a complete game. We need to see an impressive box score. Two touchdowns in a game has to become commonplace and not just be a one-off.

I believe this is like the fourth article I’ve written about Pickett that’s touched on his failure to live up to his draft status.

That’s not my fault. That’s his.

It’s up to Kenny Pickett to force me to stop writing them.


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