Kenny Pickett brings clarity to Steelers quarterback confusion

Kenny Pickett brings clarity to Steelers quarterback confusion

Coming into the 2022 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves undefined at quarterback for the first time since 2004. This is the year the team selected Miami (Ohio)’s Ben Roethlisberger with the 11th overall pick in that draft. Roethlisberger spent the next 18 seasons establishing a Hall of Fame resume, but with his retirement, the Steelers are looking to replace him in every way possible.

There’s Mason Rudolph, on the roster since the Steelers pulled him out of Oklahoma State in the third round of the 2018 draft. There’s former Bears first-round pick and Bills backup Mitch Trubisky, who signed a two-year contract value of US$14.3 million, with US$5.25 million guaranteed. And then there’s Pitt alumnus Kenny Pickett, selected with the 20th pick in the 2022 draft.

There are many moving parts and little definition in the most important position of the game. Through two preseason games, Pickett muddy the waters for anyone who thought Trubisky would be the in fact beginner.

Pickett currently has a quarterback rating of 142.5 with just three incompletes and three touchdowns on just 22 dropbacks.

Not only did Pickett understand and exploit his pre-snap reads, he played with great anticipation and relied on his receivers to make plays; especially in the two-minute drive before halfway through last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Let’s dive into the movie to explain why Pickett is making the starting quarterback position a Steelers field battle!

Pickett’s two-minute drive singled him out.

In addition to Pickett’s overall calm demeanor, there were three different skill sets that stood out from watching his two-minute drive against the Jaguars: pre-snap reads, anticipation, and balance.

Let’s start with anticipation.

In the first for 10 at their own 44-yard line, the Steelers lined up in a 3-1 visual with a one-on-one showdown on the sidelines. Johnson was passing a little through the middle. Pickett knows Johnson will make his cut from the inside when the linebacker comes out to cover the apartment.

Once again, Pickett moves the ball another 10 yards (with the defenders in his face) giving his offense a new set of downs where they end up spearing the ball to stop the clock.

On the third play of this drive, Pickett is getting pressure from the Jaguars’ backline (again), but still remains in the pocket. Since there’s a blitz coming from the left side, and the Steelers were on left side trips, Picket can play the numbers game.

On the last play of the drive, the Steelers use the move to secure the man’s cover. Once again, Pickett looks at the uneven defense and decides that since the Jaguars’ defenders are lined up so far, he lets his running back win the leverage game in a foot race to the endzone.

Trubisky went up and down in response.

Overall, Trubisky showed some hesitation, but he also showed great recovery after a few mistakes. In his eight drop backs, there were two sets of plays where he had good reads and ball placement as he redeemed himself from the previous play.

Here, the Steelers were calling the route concepts to the right sideline.

In both clips, the inner slot travels a corner route and is open, but Trubisky hesitates and ends up opening the play, but knocks his catcher down.

Trubisky makes a great recovery to move the chains.

In the video below, we have two consecutive plays. In the first clip, Trubisky receives pressure while waiting for the play to unfold and ends up taking a sachet.

Watching the first clip from the endzone angle, if Trubisky had a sense of urgency, he could have passed the ball to Chase Claypool through the middle.

But Trubisky recovers well on the next move. Once he gets to the bottom of the pocket, he hits Dionte Johnson in the middle.

Placement is good enough to gain a few feet after reception as well. If there’s one thing both quarterbacks show, it’s their great placement, giving their receivers the opportunity to catch the run.

Trubisky vs Pickett

In Trubisky’s last play against the Jaguars, the Steelers lined up in a 3v1 look with a bunch on the right side.

This was a very similar look to what Pickett saw during his two minute drive before the break, as both plays were in similar situations, both were in the 3rd and 10th.

The design was to attack midfield as the Jaguars’ defense was lined up in general overhead coverage.

When Trubisky executed the play, he checked the running back outside, which turned out to be his last play of the night.

When comparing the two quarterbacks, Pickett appears to be winning when it comes to his pocket balance when facing pressure. He doesn’t hesitate and trusts his eyes (as most rookie quarterbacks do when faced with basic looks). While there was some hesitation from Trubisky upon seeing open receivers, it is positive that he quickly recovered. He’s also shown that he can take risks and also keep drives alive with his legs when the Steelers’ offensive line is snapped.

We can’t ignore the fact that this was still a dangerous shot by Trubisky and in the end, Pickett was the one who put points on the scoreboard for his team. Keep in mind that both quarterbacks were facing the Jaguars’ starting defensive line. Pickett just showed better balance and faster decision making.

Conclusion

The Steelers play their final preseason game on Sunday afternoon against the Detroit Lions. Here’s what Tomlin had to say about quarterback competition when asked about it after last week’s game.

“Many points will be summarized in this work. This work is weighted differently, and appropriately. Stadium work is significant, and increasingly with more stadium exposure you get. So make no mistake, this is a meaningful game for a lot of people.”

At the moment, we’re not sure whether Trubisky will have to prove this weekend that he deserves the starting spot. In that case, pay attention to the similarities in the play calls of both quarterbacks when facing similar situations. Even though Trubisky may be winning the race now, it doesn’t mean he will be at the start of the season. Tomlin has always said this is a quarterback competition and if there’s one thing Pickett has shown us so far, it’s that he deserves this chance to compete.

As of now, it’s Trubisky’s place to lose, but Pickett is clearly on the rise.

Story originally appeared on Touchdown Wire

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