Dan Orlovsky: Pressure Is Now On Kenny Pickett ‘To Throw The Ball Past Five Yards Down The Field Well’
With the subtraction of OC Matt Canada on Tuesday, the scapegoat for head coach Mike Tomlin and QB Kenny Pickett has officially left the building.
Much has been made the last few months regarding what is the true reason for Pittsburgh’s struggles on offense. Some have pointed to Pittsburgh’s infamous former offensive coordinator and his simple, bland offensive system that failed to inspire many with the results the last three seasons less than mediocre. Others have blamed Pickett. He has seemingly regressed in his second season, looking scattershot at times with the football as he’ll miss open receivers down the field or run straight into trouble as he attempts to leave the pocket.
Appearing on The Pat McAfee Show on Tuesday, former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky mentioned with Canada out the door, all eyes will be on Pickett to prove that he can be more than a check-down quarterback for the Steelers moving forward.
“Kenny Pickett is going to have to, in however many games they have left… he’s going to have to prove that he is willing and able to throw the ball past five yards down the field well,” Orlovsky said on The Pat McAfee Show. “That’s been the question mark really ever since he became their guy. But that wasn’t all on him because he wasn’t asked to do it much or with an advantageous situation.”
Since coming into the league, Pickett has been one of the worst quarterbacks when it comes to the downfield passing game. He has an adjusted yards gained per passing attempt of 5.7 through two seasons with that number dropping to 4.81 in adjusted net yards gained per passing attempt, according to Pro Football Reference. He’s managed to connect on a couple of deep shots this season to WRs George Pickens and Calvin Austin III, but when referencing the passing charts on a weekly basis, you often fail to see a lot of throws down the field or toward the middle of the field. Pickett has become accustomed to throwing short toward the sidelines or behind the line of scrimmage.
The offensive system had a lot to do with Pickett’s lack of downfield shots. That also stems from HC Mike Tomlin wanting to play it safe and keep things conservative to avoid turning the football over. Thus, it’ll be important for Tomlin to be more willing to have Pickett test defenses down the field as well as Pickett having the aggressiveness to open it up a bit and utilize weapons that have shown they can win vertically when given a chance.
The Steelers need Pickett to show signs that he can develop into a future franchise quarterback. Those signs haven’t come yet as Pickett has actually regressed in his second season, posting poor numbers when it comes to passing yards, yards per attempt, and touchdowns. With Canada gone and the offense likely to be more tailored to what Pickett feels comfortable doing with QB Coach Mike Sullivan calling the plays, the excuses that Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator is holding back Pickett are gone.
The spotlight shines directly on Pickett now and his ability to execute effectively on the field with seven regular-season games left to go.