November 27, 2022

The media was harsh on Kenny Pickett’s performance against the Bengals, but the Steelers rookie was just games away from a standout game.

The hypotheticals or “could have, should have, would have” don’t mean much in football. What happened, happened and what’s done is done. However, it is sometimes difficult not to dwell on a few narrowly missed pieces that would have considerably altered the narrative.

This was the case for Kenny Pickett in Week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback had an electric second quarter and the team’s 20 points in the first half were as many as they’ve scored offensively in any game this season before that point.

The second half didn’t go so well for Pickett as his offense only managed 10 points in the last two quarters – including 7 when the game was essentially out of reach. In the end, Pickett finished with a 25/42 stat line for 265 yards and a touchdown in the loss, according to ESPN stats.

On paper, his 6.3 yards per attempt and 85.9 passer rating are pretty pedestrian. However, if a few missed plays in this game had been made, the media might go wild over Pickett’s performance right now.

Pickett’s reversal or miscommunication?

Midway through the match, Kenny Pickett had a chance to hit a George Pickens wide open in the middle of the end zone. The rookie receiver had just come a long way to create separation and it looked like Pickett had flown him in for a huge missed opportunity.

This pass was far from perfect and didn’t need to be placed in the back of the end zone. However, after watching this play several times, it appeared that Pickens turned in the opposite direction to look for the ball, but the ball was already in the air. When he tried to turn around, he tripped – which made the knockdown worse than it was.

It would have been a massive touchdown reception that would have helped Pickett’s numbers and dramatically increased his yards per attempt and passer rating. Again, it was a miss, but it could have changed the narrative greatly.

Steelers rookie drops a penny from Kenny Pickett

The biggest missed chance of the game came in this some call Pickett’s best pass of the season. Late in the game down two scores, the rookie quarterback dropped an absolute dime in a bucket deep in the field. The ball traveled approximately 45 yards beyond the line of scrimmage and would have completed a touchdown from almost 50 yards.

Pickett put that ball just beyond cornerback and safety into the hands of George Pickens. While Pickens usually grabs anything in his radius, this was a downright fall. A score here would have given the Steelers a fighting chance as there would be over 1:50 left in the game (although the result would likely have remained the same.

We could have watched a very different game from Pickett

If even one of those plays were made, we’d likely see Pickett’s performance in a very different light. Instead of an average stat line, we would have been looking at over 300 yards and at least two touchdowns on the night. Those wide-ranging throws would also have significantly increased his yards per attempt and passer rating.

Kenny Pickett clearly didn’t play a perfect game against the Bengals. He was wide on a few throws and tried to squeeze the ball into traffic at times when he just wasn’t there. However, he was just a few games away from a monster performance. Ultimately, it didn’t happen in week 11, but let’s hope it does soon.

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