Report: Pittsburgh Steelers executives believe Kenny Pickett is going to have breakout season

Jesse Cinquini
3 Min Read
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

A recent report indicates there’s a belief within the Pittsburgh Steelers organization that quarterback Kenny Pickett is going to have a breakout season in 2023.

“The defense will be legit if linebacker T.J. Watt stays healthy,” The Athletic’s Jeff Howe wrote. “But the biggest thing that stuck out after numerous conversations with team executives is the belief that quarterback Kenny Pickett will have a breakout season. The 2022 first-round pick didn’t get a lot of help on offense as a rookie, but there’s an expectation he’ll thrive in his second season.”

Pickett, 25, was selected with the No. 20 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft following five seasons of playing college football at the University of Pittsburgh.

His first season in college was underwhelming, as he played just four games during the 2017 season and finished with 509 passing yards and one passing touchdown.

Pickett stepped up his game in his final four seasons as a Panther, however. The 6-foot-3 quarterback’s best season of college football came during his final season, the 2021 season. He was one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, as he threw for 4,319 yards and a whopping 42 touchdowns compared to only seven interceptions in 13 games with the Panthers.

Pickett’s contributions during the 2021 season translated to a whole lot of wins for the Panthers. They finished the season with an excellent 11-3 record and won their conference championship, although they did lose to Michigan State University in the Peach Bowl by a final score of 31-21. Pickett didn’t play in that game.

The quarterback has played one season in the NFL. He totaled 2,404 passing yards and seven passing touchdowns in 13 games with the Steelers during the 2022 regular season (12 starts). Additionally, Pickett averaged 6.2 yards gained per passing attempt.

Those numbers were good enough for Pickett to finish sixth in Rookie of the Year voting. Only New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson, Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Chris Olave and Atlanta Falcons running back Tyler Allgeier finished ahead of Pickett.

Pickett did have trouble taking care of the ball at times as a rookie, as he threw nine interceptions compared to his seven touchdowns.

Only time will tell if Pickett does have a breakout season in the 2023 campaign. But perhaps Steelers fans should be optimistic about the possibility, considering he was one of the best rookie quarterbacks in the NFL a season ago.

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Jesse is an aspiring sports journalist that has previously worked as a staff writer at SB Nation’s CelticsBlog and The Knicks Wall.