The Pittsburgh Steelers sit at 6-3 entering Week 11 of the 2023 NFL season despite meager production from quarterback Kenny Pickett. In nine contests, Pickett has posted a 61.3% completion percentage and averaged 179.6 passing yards per game. He also has 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has defended his quarterback in the past. Notably, on November 7, Tomlin pointed to Pickett’s fourth-quarter quarterback rating as evidence that the 25-year-old is growing.
In his press conference on November 14, though, Tomlin made it no secret that the team needs more production from Pickett.
“Certainly. Man, we’re going to need more, particularly as this road narrows,” Tomlin said of Pickett. “But guys like Kenny and myself, man, we’re measured by wins and losses. He and I talk about that often and openly.
“We know what our jobs are. Our jobs are to win.”
Pickett has done that despite not having very good statistics. The 25-year-old is 13-8 in 21 NFL starts. This season, Pickett leads the league with 3 fourth-quarter comebacks.
In 7 of his 13 career wins, Pickett has recorded a game-winning drive.
Together, Pickett and Tomlin have led the Steelers to a 6-3 start despite the fact opponents have outgained them in every game.
Mike Tomlin Stresses Winner’s Mentality in QB Kenny Pickett
He doesn’t always look good doing it. In fact, he often looks very average or below average. But Pickett has been winning.
Tomlin emphasized that is what the team, quarterback included, is most concerned about.
“That’s where we are. That’s where our focus is. I love the fact that [Pickett] embraces that,” Tomlin told reporters on November 14. “Down in and down out, are there some things to work on? Certainly. But it’s not like we’re going to start on Wednesday, working on those things.
“We’ve been working on those things and we will continue until we get the desired result.”
Right now, that desired result is a more potent aerial attack. The Steelers are ranked 29th in the NFL with 180.3 passing yards per game.
Pickett is rated 26th in the league in passing yards. He sits behind quarterbacks such as Desmond Ridder and Gardner Minshew, who haven’t started every game. Mac Jones and Zach Wilson also have more.
Passing yards can be a misleading statistic for quarterbacks. But Pickett is ranked even lower in touchdown passes at 28th.
The only team that has fewer touchdown passes this season than the Steelers is the New York Jets.
Pickett’s Ball Security
If there’s a silver lining to Pickett’s play outside of his clutch fourth-quarter performances, it’s ball security. Pickett has committed just 4 giveaways in nine games this season.
“There are 33 qualified QBs this season,” the NFL on CBS X account wrote. “Only one has committed fewer than 5 turnovers.
“His name is Kenny Pickett.”
There are 33 qualified QBs this season
Only ONE has committed fewer than 5 turnovers
His name is Kenny Pickett (4) pic.twitter.com/j9q8A2uvuB
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) November 14, 2023
Behind Pickett’s ball security, the Steelers have committed just 8 turnovers, which is tied for the second fewest in the league.
With a defense that’s forcing a lot of turnovers, Pittsburgh is dominating in turnover margin. The Steelers own a plus-10 turnover differential, which is tied for the best in the NFL.
Pickett hasn’t thrown an interception in his last 147 pass attempts. That’s the longest active streak in the NFL.
That’s a big reason why the Steelers are winning games despite not gaining a lot of yards.
Tomlin doesn’t want Pickett’s ball security or winner’s mentality to change. But the next step for Pickett is for him to combine those traits with an ability to produce more big passing plays.