Kenny Pickett’s stat line looks like something Terry Bradshaw put up in 1970, not a box score reflective of a refined, modern-era quarterback. Seven touchdowns, nine interceptions, and only a 63-percent completion rate. But as the saying goes, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. For Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson, Pickett’s rookie line is deceiving.
He joined NFL Network’s Total Access to discuss Pickett’s second-year outlook and the odds his statistics can be more in-line with his tape.
“The personnel is good,” Monson said. “They made additions on top of what was already there. Guys like Allen Robinson as a buy-low type of candidate. To me the biggest reason is, Pickett played better than his statistics. Seven touchdowns, nine interceptions. But he only turnover-worthy plays of the last seven games. Had a 4.3-percent big-time throw rate. Those are highest graded throws at PFF. Which doesn’t sound like a lot but it’s the same as Kirk Cousins last year. It’s better than average. The league average is four-percent.
On paper, the Steelers look like a legitimately good offense. There was little turnover with last year’s group gaining a valuable year of experience. Pickett took his lumps early to iron things out by the end of the season. With less on his plate and avoiding playing from behind, he was a much-improved quarterback who led back-to-back game-winning drives in Week 16 and 17 last season.
After the bye, Pickett’s numbers perked up. He threw five touchdowns to just one interception while his yards-per-attempt spiked too, though his completion percentage fell. But looking just at a box score won’t tell you about the big-time throws made against the Las Vegas Raiders and especially the Baltimore Ravens. A scramble drill complete to TE Pat Freiermuth, a dime to WR Steven Sims down the seam (his best throw of the season, by far), and the game-winning score to RB Najee Harris.
For Monson, if his numbers can normalize, Pickett can be an impact player.
“If he can add to it with a little bit more comfort in the system, I think he’s primed for a little bit of a bump by things breaking his way for a change.”
His numbers will still be capped by being a young quarterback in a run-heavy, old-school offense. Reasonable expectations should place him around 19-22 touchdowns and ideally, only six or seven interceptions. If his numbers can bump proportional to what Trevor Lawrence did from his rookie to sophomore season, it’ll likely be a quality season for Pickett. And of course, winning cures everything and if Pickett and the Steelers can win, it won’t matter what his numbers look like.