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Louis Riddick Thinks ‘Kenny (Pickett)’s Gonna Shut A Lot of People Up’ This Season



Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett.

A lot of people nitpicked Kenny Pickett’s rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it is nearly impossible to poke holes in his first full preseason. Five touchdowns in five drives is perfection.

I mean, Pickett had three more touchdown drives than he did incompletions this preseason. And yes, it is preseason. And he met the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons backups, but he also carved up the starting defense of a Super Bowl contender.

In three games, just five drives, Pickett completed 13-of-15 pass attempts for 199 yards and two touchdowns. For those keeping track at home, that’s a perfect 158.0 passer rating. I guess he shouldn’t have thrown the ball away as he was being dragged down behind the line of scrimmage against the Bucs or given Allen Robinson a chance to catch an off-platform pass against the Bills.

That’s it. Two incompletions. Five touchdowns. And Louis Riddick, a former Pitt star and current ESPN broadcaster, believes the sky is the limit for Pickett going forward.

“Kenny is doing exactly what you expect Kenny to do,” Riddick said Friday at the Pitt Football Kickoff Luncheon. “You talk about football character, personal character, is there a better person than Kenny Pickett? You tell me. He will advance cerebrally, mentally, because that’s what happens from Year 1 to Year 2, when you’re able to back off and break down your game, the opponent’s game and understand how you fit into your own offense.

“He’s done that. Physically he’s maturing still. The team’s gotten better around him, you’ve seen how George Pickens looks, George Pickens is gonna go to the Pro Bowl this year, George Pickens may be a first-team All-Pro, and that’s not even talking about how good Dionate Johnson is, Pat Freiermuth is, Najee Harris is, they’ve got studs everywhere. But Kenny is that guy that stands up straight, square shoulders, looks people in the eye and the team respects him. They’ve respected him from Day 1.”

The Steelers selected Pickett with the 20th pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, the first and only quarterback selected in the first round, and he entered his first season in the NFL as (now-Steelers backup) Mitch Trubisky’s backup — replacing Trubisky in Week 4 against the New York Jets.

It wasn’t the easiest transition to the NFL for Pickett as he threw two touchdowns to seven interceptions in his first four NFL games, thrust into the lineup with limited preseason preparation, but he settled into a groove down the stretch. In the eight games (just one series against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 13) to end the season, Pickett threw for 1,442 yards with five touchdowns and one interception — adding another score on the ground.

But it was his winning habits that really shined. With the Steelers’ playoff hopes on the line against the Las Vegas Raiders and Ravens in late December and early January, Pickett led clutch game-winning touchdown drives.

He completed 245-of-389 pass attempts for 2,404 yards with seven touchdowns and nine interceptions in 12 games — 11 starts. He also added 237 yards and three touchdowns on 55 carries.

With Pickett in the starting lineup, the Steelers went 7-5 — including three in a row to end the season. And in the nine weeks following the bye week, the Steelers put together a 7-2 record.

Of course, the quality of competition dropped down the stretch, but Pickett won key divisional games — at home and on the road — and his poise and ability to run the offense steadily grew. He was most dangerous as he created outside the pocket, but the growth in the pocket was noticeable.

It was a perfect window into why Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and the organization are so high on Pickett as he enters his second season.

“Mike (Tomlin) talks about that, you guys talk to Mike Tomlin, ask Mike what he thinks of Kenny Pickett,” Riddick said. “He loves him. Kenny’s gonna shut a lot of people up this year, who said that he’s just a good college quarterback who wears two gloves, can’t push the ball down the field all that deep. I’m gonna have fun with this one on social media, believe me.”

Pickett’s preseason finale against the Falcons, even though it was against backups, was a perfect example of his progression. He went 4-of-4 for 86 yards — leading two touchdown drives. But it was the ability to throw it deep that impressed.

He completed a 33-yard toss to Diontae Johnson from inside his own 10-yard line, dropping a perfectly thrown ball right into the arms of a streaking Johnson. And he followed up with a perfectly placed 35-yard jump ball for George Pickens — right over the outstretched arms of the Falcons cornerback.

Pickett looks like he belongs now. He looks like a brand new man in the pocket, moving well in and out of the pocket and showcasing a strong arm that has placed passes where only his receivers are able to haul in the ball. I mean, the deep ball to Johnson was perfect. And no one was catching the deep ball to Pickens other than Pickens himself. With throws made all over the field, in the flat, over the middle, down the sideline, Pickett’s placement and velocity have been impeccable.

It’s been a perfect preseason for Pickett and the Steelers, and obviously, it’s just preseason, but there’s an expectation that the improved play will carry over across every aspect of Pickett’s game this season.

Riddick expects a major leap from Pickett in Year 2, and perhaps everyone should listen to what he’s saying.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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1 month ago

The team is totally different now that all we need to know!!!

Roberta Campbell
Roberta Campbell
1 month ago

It is good to see a analysts say positive true opinions which are facts. I can’t wait for Kenny to prove to the NFL that he belongs in the NFL he will be one of the better QBs. Right now before the season starts and no major injuries I say Bengals #1 Steelers #2 and it is a coin flip for 3 and 4 between Ravens and the Browns. Plus who knows the Steelers could possibly be #1.

1 month ago

I sure hope so, but I remember he looked good in the preseason last year as well, and then the real games started and he was pretty mediocre, at least at first.

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