Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Steelers draft Kenny Pickett: Breaking Dan Marino’s college records and more to know about Pittsburgh’s new QB

The Steelers famously passed on Pitt legend Dan Marino in the 1983 NFL Draft. With Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett there for the taking Thursday night, the Steelers selected him with the 20th overall pick. In the process, Pickett becomes the first Panthers quarterback since Marino to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. 

Pickett joins a quarterback room in Pittsburgh that includes Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph. The first quarterback selected in the draft, Pickett will likely be in the mix to compete to be the Steelers’ starting quarterback coming out of training camp. Pickett will look to develop a quick rapport with his new teammates in Pittsburgh that includes receivers Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, running back Najee Harris and tight end Pat Freiermuth

“I’m pretty familiar with the area code,” Pickett joked shortly after being called by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. “I had a pretty good idea of who it was. I was speechless.”

Here are three quick facts about Pickett, who will look to follow in Marino’s footsteps as a former Panthers quarterback who enters the NFL with high expectations.

Record-setter 

Pickett broke two of Marino’s long-standing Pitt records during the 2021 season. His 42 touchdown passes broke Marino’s single-season school record of 37 touchdown passes set during the 1981 season. Pickett also reached 81 career touchdown passes, breaking Marino’s career mark of 79 touchdown passes from 1979-82. 

During his final season at Pitt, Pickett also threw for a school record 4,319 yards while completing 67.2% of his passes. He threw at least two touchdowns in each of his 13 starts last fall that included six games with at least four touchdown tosses. 

A proven winner 

Pickett announced himself on the college scene after leading the Panthers to a shocking upset win over second-ranked Miami during his freshman season. It was the first of 33 wins as Pitt’s starting quarterback, as Pickett won two-thirds of his starts that included a 17-5 record during his final two years with the Panthers. 

Pickett helped the Panthers capture their first ACC Coastal Division crown in 2018. Last year, Pickett led the Panthers to their first-ever ACC title. In the process, Pickett won ACC Offensive Player of the Year and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting. 

Underrated mobility 

He is not the running threat Malik Willis is, but Pickett clearly has enough mobility to satisfy Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert. Pickett ran for 21 touchdowns at Pitt that included 13 rushing scores over the past two years. 

Pickett’s mobility actually led to an NCAA rule change following his 58-yard touchdown run in Pitt’s ACC Championship Game win over Wake Forest. Pickett’s mobility will come in handy while running Matt Canada’s offense. 

Scouting report 

Pickett’s consistency as a passer was one of the biggest reasons for his breakout 2021 season. Along with routinely putting the ball where it needed to be, Pickett also generally made good decisions with the football. His confidence got the better of him on a few occasions, but that’s something that can be coached at the next level. 

Pickett, who led the FBS with 25 touchdown passes against the blitz last season, showed considerable poise in the pocket while running Pitt’s offense. He also delivered calmness when leading the offense during pivotal moments in close games. He showed impressive command of the huddle while exuding leadership skills that are coveted at the quarterback position. 

While he doesn’t have the biggest arm, Pickett has solid arm strong strength and won’t be limited as far as throwing is concerned. His overall athleticism is surely one of the things that convinced the Steelers to draft him over any other quarterback. 

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