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Opinion

Vukovcan: The Steelers Make the Right Pick with Kenny Pickett

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This time, the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t pass on the local star.

Thirty-nine years ago, with the 21st selection in the 1st Round of the 1983 NFL Draft, the Steelers passed on Pitt quarterback Dan Marino and instead went with Texas Tech defensive lineman Gabe Rivera.

We all know how that turned out.

Last night, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin passed on all the other quarterback options, along with players such as center Tyler Linderbaum, defensive end Jermaine Johnson, linebacker Devin Lloyd and cornerback Trent McDuffie to select Kenny Pickett, someone they were more familiar with than anyone in this 2022 Draft.

The question now is was that the best choice for the Steelers or did they reach to fill a position that they have an obvious need at?

Pickett had a tremendous senior season at Pitt, has obvious talent and has consistently displayed all of the characteristics on and off the field any NFL franchise looks for when looking to bring in the most important position on the team. Despite that, not everyone was singing the Steelers praises.

One of the biggest critics of the Pickett selection was Mike DeCourcy from The Sporting News.

While I have the most respect for DeCourcy and his opinions most of the time, in my humble opinion, he shot an airball with this take. To be clear, he isn’t the only person that shares this opinion and of the thoughts that Pickett has a limited ceiling and isn’t good enough himself to consistently perform at a high level and make his team better.

After following Pickett at Pitt and really getting to know him, I can say that I don’t share that opinion.

But neither of our opinions matter or are correct today.

Any true evaluation or grading of this pick won’t be able to be given for at least a few years.

Being called a one-year wonder,and someone that took five seasons to have one great college season, is a bit rough. But if you follow Pickett’s time at Pitt, you’d realize the circumstances that surrounded it.

It’s no coincidence that Pickett had his best college season last season, as he threw for over 4,000 yards along with 42 touchdowns passes and only 7 interceptions, at the same time he was surrounded by the best talent of his career. That shouldn’t be a knock against Pickett. If you think Jordan Addison would’ve won the Biletnikoff Award last season without Pickett as his quarterback, you’re crazy.

In Pickett’s first couple seasons as a starter, the talent at receiver and tight end, in no way resemble what he was able to work with last season. Aside from Maurice Ffrench, who was a good–not great–college receiver, the hard truth is that Pickett didn’t have any real weapons: players with game-changing speed or ability that he was able to throw to in 2021. As the saying goes, and perfectly describes Pickett, ‘Most times you’re only as good as the talent that surrounds you’.

The other battle Pickett had to overcome in his first couple seasons is that of an incompetent offensive coordinator in Shawn Watson, who had zero imagination. As we witnessed last season, Pickett is capable of throwing the ball vertically down the field, which was something Watson refused to do and instead was in love with the sideways pass that didn’t go beyond 3-5 yards.

It would be hard for any quarterback to show their true ability when handcuffed by someone like Watson and parlayed with having very mediocre talent to throw to. That all changed for Pickett in year two of Mark Whipple’s pass-heavy offense and having the fortune of being surrounded by players like Addison, Jared Wayne, Taysir Mack, Lucas Krull, Jaylon Barden, Gavin Bartholomew, Israel Abanikanda, Vincent Davis and Rodney Hammond. A few of those players will be joining Pickett in the NFL soon.

It shouldn’t be viewed as a negative that Pickett’s performance was aided by the talent surrounding him. Most of the time, that’s the way it works. Show me a great quarterback that hasn’t had the benefit of offensive playmakers and above average talent around him.

The good news for Pickett is that with the Steelers, he’s going to be surrounded by NFL talent from day one with teammates like Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Pat Freiermuth, and Najee Harris.

Personally, I’m excited for Pickett because I know the work he’s put in to get to this point. I also know that no one will outwork him, he will arrive at Saint Vincent prepared, will know the Steelers playbook inside and out and will be a person that will represent the Steelers organization and the city of Pittsburgh in a first-class manner on and off the field. I realize this is high praise but he will remind fans and carry himself the way Sidney Crosby has since day one with the Pittsburgh Penguins. There won’t be any Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell type drama.

So, in the end, what type of quarterback am I expecting Pickett to be for the Steelers?

I’m not going to say great because I believe that term is used way too often in our society. I will say that if the Steelers assemble the right team around him, Pickett will have a long, successful NFL career and will start his share of playoff games. If that turns out to be the case, this won’t be a selection the Steelers will regret for years. Instead, last night, they took the first step in making themselves a serious contender, year in and year out, in the AFC Conference.

It’s nearly impossible to win without an above average quarterback and the Steelers now have one in Kenny Pickett.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Eli
Eli
5 months ago

I don’t necessarily agree with all of the above; KP’s early struggles can’t all be blamed on a bad OC and mediocre teammates. I think the important point about his time at Pitt was that he got better every year. His first year as a starter, he was pretty bad. Second year, he started showing flashes but still struggled mightily at times. Third year, he started putting it all together, and then last year…Heisman finalist. If he’d been bad for three years, then all of a sudden turned into a superstar in his final season of eligibility, then DeCourcy might… Read more »

Giovanni
Giovanni
5 months ago
Reply to  Eli

What a lot of people are missing is that Pickett has loads of talent and a highly competitive attitude but the person who really brought it all out in him was Peyton Manning. He took Pickett under his wing and took a special interest in him. Last season is when Pickett really started nailing long-ball accuracy and this played a huge roll in taking him to the upper echelons of the position.

DionJag
DionJag
5 months ago

Despite what DeCourcy had to say there are other pundits that really liked the pick. For example, Pete Prisco of CBS Sports who wrote in his Draft grades article: ” #20 Steelers: Kenny Pickett, QB, PittsburghGrade: A
I love this pick. They take the local kid to play quarterback and he will prove to be the best quarterback in this class. Give him a few games, and he will have the job. Pickett has the tools to become a quality starter. This works in a lot of ways. “

TJ
TJ
5 months ago

I’m glad it worked out for him and he gets rewarded for all the years of hard work. H2P !

In addition to Decourcy, i saw a clip from PFF .. they panned the pick too. KP is 24, small hands, fumble issues, especially in bad weather, will be playing in a conf that has all outdoor stadiums with winter weather, is kind of an on-the-fly QB and has a slow release. They had him around the 46th best pick.

Time will tell.

Bill House
Bill House
5 months ago

I haven’t seen any of his interviews. Did he mention that he was “going to go have a cold one” afterward.

Gary O'Shell
Gary O'Shell
5 months ago

I’m not sure the Steelers made the right pick. I loved Kenny at Pitt, but I have some questions about him. Some very respected talent evaluators have said his ceiling is Kirk Cousins. If so, they have that and maybe more already in Trubisky. That said, I’m going to pull greatly for him to make it and be far more than Cousins has been.

Eric payne
Eric payne
5 months ago

Chuck Bill once said that it takes years of hard work to become an overnight sensation. Kenny Pickett put in the work. He is a great deal like Aaron Donald in that they are not afraid of hard work. Thank you and congratulations to you and continue to keep proving those doubting Thomas’s wrong.

Section 122
Section 122
5 months ago

DeCourcy: “Show me a QB that took years to get one great college season.”

Everyone: “Joe Burrow”

DeCourcy: ?????

Ted
Ted
5 months ago

They had to pick him at worst they have a good back up for the next 4 years. Everyone will talk about the kid from Liberty but who did Liberty really play that was any good other than Syracuse?
I think Pickett will beat out Tribusky as for his career I think he could be like Jake Dahlomme if he has the right cast around him.

Dukes

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