Sports

NFL Draft 2022: What Pitt QB Kenny Pickett brings to the Pittsburgh Steelers

No quarterback in the country bettered himself and his draft stock more by returning for his super senior season than Kenny Pickett, who went from good college player to arguably the top quarterback prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft class. Along the way he rewrote most of Pittsburgh’s record book, surpassing Hall of Famer Dan Marino in all the program’s major statistical categories. He was one of the best passers in the country in 2021, finishing fourth in Heisman Trophy voting.

In taking Pickett with the 20th pickthe Pittsburgh Steelers are getting a smart, pro-ready passer with great instincts. Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi told The Athletic that he believes Pickett is talented enough to take any NFL franchise to a Super Bowl. The 6-3, 217-pound signal-caller looks the part of the franchise quarterback he seems destined to be.

Pickett was a four-year starter at Pitt, gaining a great deal of experience in a shotgun pro-style offense. I have led the panthers to their first-ever ACC championship after spurning the NFL a season ago. He opted instead to use the extra year of eligibility offered by the NCAA due to the pandemic, as did a handful of key Pitt starters who provided vital to the championship run. Pickett stands out in an era defined by rampant player movement. He got better and better within the Pitt program until he became one of the best quarterbacks in college football.

Narduzzi said that Pickett’s first “slam-dunk” attribute is that pro-style experience. Pitt doesn’t recruit dual-threat quarterbacks, and Pickett isn’t one. Narduzzi will leave those prospects for everybody else and look for a player in Pickett’s mould.

“He’s a drop-back quarterback who can still beat you with his feet,” Narduzzi said. “And he can read the coverage. There are so many kids out there who can go read one, read two and then they’re running. There are a lot of very average quarterbacks out there compared to what Kenny Pickett is right now. And it’s because of the style of offense he’s participated in. … At that position, you need someone who’s going to be in the office as long as the coaches are. That guy will be there all day working on his craft from him. I think he’s just a special, special player.”

“He’s an outstanding football player and a winner.”

Dane Brugler on Kenny Pickett (No. 1 QB, No. 30 overall prospect in The Beast)

Pickett shows outstanding instincts as a passer with his ability to throw receivers open and make quick-reaction decisions. While his confidence in him is more of a strength than a weakness, he will get greedy at times forcing throws into tight coverage and writing checks his arm in him ca n’t cash. Pickett has some skittish tendencies, and the hand size (throws with a glove) will be a factor for some teams, but his football IQ, functional mobility and accuracy from various platforms are an impressive package.

Top college highlight

Pickett has thrown for a lot of touchdowns — 81 over the course of his career at Pitt — and it’s easy to find those highlights. But the most memorable moment of Pickett’s collegiate career is not a pass. It’s his fake slide on a run against Wake Forest that led to a 56-yard touchdown in the ACC championship game, an instantly iconic moment and a play that ended up prompting an NCAA rule change.

“It wasn’t a smart play, it was an instinctive play,” Narduzzi said. “He didn’t try to do it, and that’s the God’s honest truth. It was an instinct play, and that’s who he is. Who would he even think to do that? As he was running, he saw the guy slow down five yards before he got to him.

“I tweeted out a video of how you defend a scrambling quarterback, and you’ll see video of our guys diving over top the quarterback. When the quarterback goes down, we go over and we don’t hit the guy. But when we go after the quarterback, we’re going to try to hit him in the mouth until he goes down. Those guys stopped five yards ahead of him. It’s just bad football, in my opinion.”

Earlier this month, the NCAA announced that “if a ball carrier simulates a feet-first slide, officials will declare the runner down at that spot.”

“They shouldn’t even have had to make a rule change,” Narduzzi said, “because I don’t think anybody in their right mind would have ever really done that, unless somebody plays that defense.”

average time

After Pitt knocked off No. 13 Clemson 27-17, Pickett gave an all-time great on-field postgame interview. “I’m going to go have a cold one and then we’ll get ready for Miami,” Pickett said, endearing himself to sports fans nationwide. Another benefit of coming back to school as a super senior: drinking legally after big wins.

coachspeak

College football coaches everywhere will use Pickett’s career as an example of what can happen when you stay put, realizing the grass isn’t always greener elsewhere. Unlike most programs, Pitt hasn’t lost a ton of transfers in recent years, so some of this applies to Pitt broadly and not just Pickett. But it’s worth highlighting the massive jump the quarterback made from 2020 to 2021. He improved his completion percentage (from 61.1 to 67.2), more than tripled his touchdowns thrown (13 to 42) and threw one fewer interception while attempting 165 more passes than he did in 2020.

“Stay and continue to develop,” Narduzzi said. “When you’re 18, you’re going to be better when you’re 19. When you’re 19, you’re going to be better when you’re 20. And when you’re 22, you’re going to be better when you’re 23. The more time you can you work at this craft and study the game, the better chance you have at the next level.

“Kenny Pickett’s meant everything. He brought us our first ACC championship. I have led us down that path. Players lead, and they take ownership. Kenny is that leader, and he took us to the place we had a goal to go. We went (to the ACC title game) in ’18 with him. We go there in ’21 with him and win it all. He means the world to me and, really, this football team.”

(Photo: Logan Whitton/Getty Images)

.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button