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Kenny Pickett’s up-and-down season is interesting to review

Steelers fans seem sold, the stats tell an interesting story

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

When the Cleveland Browns faced off with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3, on Thursday Night Football, Jacoby Brissett led the home team to a victory over the Mitchell Trubisky-helmed visitors.

A few months later, Deshaun Watson and Kenny Pickett will be behind center when the two teams match up again in Week 18. By now, the Browns have been eliminated from playoff contention while the Steelers still hold a glimmer of hope. Cleveland can snuff out that hope, and give Mike Tomlin his first losing season, with a victory Sunday at 1 PM.

For the Browns, Pickett taking over at quarterback may not be the most important change from Week 3 (T.J. Watt playing is) but it is the most interesting now and for the future. Pittsburgh fans mostly believe that the rookie QB has proven he will be their long-term starter during his 12 games this season.

What does the data tell us?

  • The Steelers are 6-5 when Pickett starts
  • He is completing 64% of his passes
  • Pickett has thrown six touchdowns and nine interceptions
  • His 6.1 yards per attempt is the lowest in the NFL among qualified passers
  • The Pittsburgh quarterback has run the ball 52 times for 236 yards and three touchdowns
  • He has been sacked 26 times, 19th most in the NFL, in just 12 games
  • Pickett has one game over 300 yards and three over 200
  • He’s never thrown for more than one TD in a game but twice thrown three INTs

Those are the basic stats but we want to take a quick look at some other data points as well on the young rookie:

  • Pro Football Focus has Pickett graded as the 24th-best passer in the NFL this year
  • Football Outsiders has the rookie at 26th in their DYAR metric (measuring play adjusted for situation compared to replacement level play)
  • Player Profile says Pickett attempts near the bottom of the league number of deep passes, is 32nd in “money throws”, 29th in pressured throws, has the third most “danger plays” and most interceptable passes (balls that should have been picked off even if they weren’t)

For Pittsburgh, the hope is that the quality play that they have seen at times is replicable and repeatable as Pickett gets more experience in the league, better timing with his receivers, a better understanding of defenses and, perhaps, a better offensive line. The downside is obvious but can, mostly, be chalked up to being a rookie and what looks like the last year for OC Matt Canada with the Steelers.

We can only wait to see what Pickett becomes in the future. For now, the Browns defense has a chance to end his rookie year on a sour note and add to the negative data seen above.

Given the narrative out of Pittsburgh and nationally, are you surprised by the above numbers?