When the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted quarterback Kenny Pickett in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at No. 20 overall, they envisioned his fit within the offensive scheme under second-year coordinator Matt Canada being an ideal fit, thanks to his pre- and post-snap processing, touch and anticipation, and — most importantly — his mobility.
Once he was inserted into the game coming out of the half against the New York Jets on Sunday at Acrisure Stadium, his mobility was on full display throughout the second half, as he scored two touchdowns on the ground in the 24-20 loss, used his legs to pick up a first down after avoiding the pass rush, and even converted a fourth and short quarterback sneak on his first possession on the field.
Pickett isn’t going to be confused with Buffalo’s Josh Allen, Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson or even Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts when it comes to his running abilities. However, he is very comfortable using his legs to extend plays and take what the defense is giving him, moving the chains and even adding an element to the offense in the red zone, as shown on his two rushing touchdowns Sunday.
“Yeah, I am [comfortable using my legs]. Obviously I’m not going to rip off 60-yard runs, but that’s something I think that if they’ll drop underneath a lot of things, give me some running lanes I can use my legs and get first downs,” Pickett said to reporters following the loss, according to video via the Steelers’ official YouTube page. “In the red zone it adds another element. That was a play we had dialed up, I think more towards the middle of the field. But we asked about, when we get down there again, what kind of plays I like.
I put that one up first because I could either throw it to Pat or take off running. Three-way. Or give it to Naj [Harris]. Plenty of options. I like to have options down there and definitely use my athleticism as one of them.”
To be fair, Mitch Trubisky brought very similar traits to the table after the Steelers signed him, especially his legs. For whatever reason though, he was reluctant to pull the football down and run, and when he did he wasn’t as confident in his decision making overall.
That wasn’t the case with Pickett on Sunday. He muscled for the first down on fourth down with the QB sneak and later fought his way across the goal line on the QB sneak for his first touchdown of the game. Then, on the RPO in the red zone, he never panicked and made the right decision to keep the football and barrel ahead for his second score of the game.
That doesn’t even begin to touch on the seven-yard scamper he had to move the chains in the third quarter, avoiding the pass rush to his left and running off right tackle to extend the drive.
The Steelers will need to see more of that from Pickett moving forward. He’s confident using his legs, likes to put pressure on defenders to defend that element of his game, and typically makes sound decisions with the football when he’s running.