Rob Long of The Fan in Baltimore jumped on the Cook & Joe Show on 93.7 The Fan Friday to talk about the Baltimore Ravens, whom he covers, as well as the Pittsburgh Steelers as they compete for the AFC North crown in 2023. When speaking to Ron Cook and Joe Starkey about Steelers QB Kenny Pickett, Long said he thinks Pickett can win in this league but needs to show more in his second season before he is firmly established as the guy in Pittsburgh.
“I’m not sold yet,” Long said on 93.7 The Fan. “I think there is something there. He’s a more talented version of Jimmy G. You can win with him, but I’ve got to see more this year.”
The Jimmy Garoppolo comparison is an interesting one from Long. Garoppolo has been a successful quarterback in the NFL but has been seen more as a “game manager” than a franchise quarterback. Garoppolo started his career in New England, backing up Tom Brady. He ended up getting traded to the San Francisco 49ers in 2017 and started 55 games over the next six seasons in the Bay Area, going 38-17 in the regular season while throwing for 13,599 yards and 87 TDs with 42 INTs. Garoppolo started six playoff games for the 49ers during his tenure with the team, going 4-2 in those contests with a Super Bowl appearance, but threw only four TDs to six INTs in those games.
Injuries derailed Garoppolo’s time with the 49ers as he played only one full season with the team. This prompted San Francisco to trade up to select Trey Lance third overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, opting to take a player with a higher upside than Garoppolo. Still, Garoppolo was the team’s primary starter the last two seasons until he suffered a foot injury that caused him to miss the rest of the season.
Comparing Pickett to Garoppolo has its benefits as Garoppolo has been a successful quarterback in the regular season and was a part of several playoff teams for the 49ers. However, Garoppolo has never really been that franchise quarterback in the league, being passed over this offseason for the combination of Lance and Brock Purdy and signing with the Las Vegas Raiders this offseason to replace Derek Carr.
Pickett doesn’t necessarily have a high ceiling either compared to the likes of Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes, projecting more like Garoppolo when it comes to frame, arm strength, intangibles, etc. However, Pickett is only entering his second season and can grow and develop more in the NFL; Garoppolo is what he is at this point.
Pickett may never become a top five quarterback in the NFL and Long is correct that we must see more from him in 2023. A more talented version of Garoppolo isn’t a bad starting point for Pickett heading into his second season, but Pittsburgh is hoping he can become much more than that as its hopeful franchise quarterback.