The Steelers Would Be A Playoff Team if Pickett Started Week 1

Associated Press

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The mismanagement of the quarterback position this season for the Pittsburgh Steelers goes all the way back to the beginning of Training Camp.  In my opinion, we all knew this was a "throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks" year.  In that regard, you did not need to come out of camp with a quarterback who received nearly all of the first team reps.  That didn't make sense to me.  The Steelers also did not possess a QB on the roster who was a clear and established NFL starter.

However, I am not the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I definitely shouldn't be.  But from what was reported, Mitch Trubisky received most of the first team reps during camp while Kenny Pickett received very few.  In fact, Pickett was receiving third team reps to start camp despite fans being told by the team he was "the most NFL ready QB prospect in the draft."  

So when Kenny Pickett was called upon in the middle of Week 4 against the New York Jets, he wasn't properly prepared.  Plus, the Steelers had already lost to a lousy Cleveland Browns and lousy New England Patriots team, in large part due to an inept offense led by Mitch Trubisky.  I'm a rational person, unlike most of these talking heads looking to die on one side of the Pickett hill.  So I'm not arguing that the Steelers come out of the first four games with a 4-0 record if Kenny Pickett is treated as the starter from the beginning, but I think they could have definitely started better than 1-3.

I also do believe the Steelers would currently hold an AFC playoff spot had they treated Pickett like the starter from the beginning.  I have two supporting points to my argument.  The first one, is just how much better Pickett has played since the bye week.  Before the bye week, Pickett was 112 for 165 with 962 passing yards, two touchdowns, and eight interceptions.  Big yikes on the TD/INT ratio there.  He had also fumbled the football three times.  

Since the bye, he is 79 for 129 with 835 passing yards, but he has thrown two touchdowns and zero interceptions.  He has also not fumbled the ball.  Pickett has not turned the ball over since Week 8.

If you watched yesterday's game, you can clearly see why that is so important.  After Pickett was taken out of the game with a concussion, Mitch Trubisky threw three interceptions, and the Steelers had a field goal blocked.  They still only lost by 2 points.  

While the defense had two drives to prove their worth and get stops (both times they did not), Trubisky blew the game.  It'd be hard to argue that three interceptions in a two-point game did not ultimately decide the outcome, right?  It's also an easy argument to say had the Steelers had a QB under center that does not give the ball away, at least since given the proper amount of first team reps, they would have won that game.  

So just imagine if the Steelers treated Pickett like the starter from the beginning of camp.  Or at least the co-starter.  Look how quickly Kenny has cleaned up his game given two weeks of no games (because of the bye), and was allowed to just focus on development.  He's taking giant strides during the season when there is also game film and strategy to consider.  I would have loved for him to be given the time to solely focus on first teams reps and building chemistry with the other starters during the time that's supposed to happen in August.  

The second argument I have for why the Steelers would be a playoff team if Pickett was given the chance from the beginning is because the AFC is pretty lousy.  The AFC West was supposed to be this powerhouse division this season.  They had four well known QBs in Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Derek Carr, and Justin Herbert.  Mahomes is still Mahomes, but Wilson and Carr have greatly disappointed and Herbert can't seem to will the Chargers to many victories, despite a win against a good Dolphins team last night.  Only one team from the AFC West, the Chiefs, is comfortably in the playoffs right now.

Also, teams like the Cleveland Browns Indianapolis Colts who made some noise last season, both had new QBs that were supposed to lead to improvement this season.  But after Deshaun Watson was suspended for the first 11 games and Matt Ryan stunk for the Colts, those two teams have fallen to the back as well.  Even the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets, who both looked unstoppable at different points in the season have fallen off slightly - the Jets more than the Dolphins.  

So with a Raiders loss Thursday night, a Jets loss yesterday, and the Dolphins and Chargers set to play each other last night, the Steelers weren't in a bad spot going into yesterday's game.  Especially because the Steelers were playing the Ravens, and the Cincinnati Bengals have been doing their best to take the division lead from the Ravens.  So the Steelers were facing a team yesterday that while typically they're battling for the AFC North title, could have been a Wild Card spot battle instead.

The Steelers, with a win yesterday against the Ravens, would have been just one game out of a Wild Card spot, and only two games behind the Ravens.  They also have a Week 17 date with the Ravens, which could have been a "control your own destiny" game with a Steeler win yesterday.  

However, the Steelers lost.  And now they are most likely out of the playoff picture for good.  In a conference that overall has greatly underachieved, the Steelers are still out of the playoff picture.  Even so, the Steelers are still just two games back of the Los Angeles Chargers, the current 7-seed in the AFC.  

The Steelers also suffered close losses to both the Jets and Dolphins, two teams they should be battling for these final playoff spots.  While again, I'm trying to be rational here so I'm not saying the Steelers would be  13-0 or even leading the AFC North, but they could absolutely be in the Wild Card with Kenny Pickett as their opening day starter.  And that's assuming Pickett was given the proper amount of first team reps in camp, and every week afterward.