Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett threw eight interceptions over the course of the first five games of his career, adding in a lost fumble for good measure. His final pass in the last game before the bye week against the Philadelphia Eagles fell into the hands of the defense.
He hasn’t repeated that mistake since then. After eight picks on his first 165 pass attempts, or 4.85%, he has now thrown exactly 100 passes without throwing an interception after another clean slate on 28 pass attempts last night in a win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Considering where the narrative was heading not so long ago, that’s a significant development. After all, we’re talking about a player who debuted with three interceptions in one half of football, after which I saw many (presumably mostly non-Steelers fans) referring to him as Kenny Pick-It.
Now, we could go through each of his interceptions one by one and try to assign blame; and certainly, for some of them, there are extenuating circumstances: contested plays, deflections, and miscommunications. But the bottom line is that the quarterback is first and foremost responsible for ball security in the air.
He’s doing that. The Steelers have been protecting the football lately, and they’ve actually been, you know, doing pretty well. They’ve scored 20-plus points three games in a row and are 2-1 in that span. They’re averaging 27 points per game over the past two weeks.
That’s not just because Pickett has been protecting the ball, of course. He’s been growing generally, and more importantly to that end, so has the run game—which is another thing to note. In Pickett’s first three starts that he actually finished, he attempts 52, 44, and 38 pass attempts.
Now, he did throw the ball 42 times last week in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, but he has been 30 attempts or under in the other two games since the bye week. Keeping his pass attempts down is good for many reasons, not the least of which being that it likely means they’re winning or at least close, and/or that the running game is holding up.
Odds are exceptionally good that Pickett is going to throw some more interceptions before this season is over. There are still six more games, after all. But we’re also beginning to see more of who he is going to be as a professional in the National Football League.
That should be a given when dealing with a rookie, especially one who was not prepared to start throughout the length of the offseason. Remember, he was frequently taking third-team reps in the summer. He didn’t even get a lot of work in with certain starters he’s playing with now. But they’re getting that work in as they go along, and it will only yield better results over time.