The Pickett family tree is one filled with highly accomplished athletes.
His father, Ken Pickett, was an All-American linebacker at Shippensburg University; his sister, Alex, was a soccer player at East Stroudsburg University; and lastly, his mother, Kasey, was a soccer player at Kutztown University. It was only fitting that Kenny would build his own legacy through athletics, as he took the same path as his father.
Instead of defense, Kenny became a quarterback standout at Ocean Township in New Jersey, where he was ranked as one of the nation's top pro-style quarterbacks. After initially committing to Temple University, Kenny decided to change his commitment and join his head coach, Pat Narduzzi at the University of Pittsburgh. This is where journey began.
As a true freshman in 2017, Kenny played in only four games. Yet he would make his mark against the second-ranked Miami Hurricanes, where he led Pittsburgh to an upset victory. For his efforts, he would earn the Manning Award "Star of the Week". In his sophomore year, Kenny would establish himself as the Panthers' starting quarterback, playing in 14 games and registering 1,969 passing yards and 12 touchdowns. By his junior year in 2019, he nearly doubled his passing yards (3,098) and completed 61.6% of his passes. His most notable moment came in the 2019 Quick Lane Bowl, where he threw for 361 yards and three touchdowns in their victory over Eastern Michigan. In the COVID-shortened year of 2020, Kenny still managed to produce at a high level, as he finished with 2,408 yards and 13 touchdowns in just nine starts.
Yet Kenny's greatest season came in 2021, when he broke the legendary Dan Marino's single-season school record for touchdown passes (42) and his career passing touchdowns (81). When the season was over, Kenny would own all Pitt's quarterback records, including most 300-yard games (16), most 400-yard games (five), and total offense (13,112). He would earn the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and be named a Heisman Trophy Finalist, where he would finish third in voting.
When viewing Kenny on film, it became clear why former Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert labelled him as the "most prepared" quarterback in this year's Draft class. What has defined Kenny as a quarterback is not just his diverse skill set, but his ability to use it at the right time. It is this type of structure that has allowed him to be successful at the collegiate level and should translate successfully into the NFL.
Reads and Progressions
A major reason for Kenny's success during his tenure as a Pitt Panther was his ability to go through his progressions in an efficient manner. Through the years, Kenny's improved poise in the pocket and his field vision resulted in a proficiency in uncovering vulnerabilities in opposing defenses.
In this film sequence, Pitt's offense is in a 10 personnel package (4 receivers, no tight ends, one running back). In this case, it was all about finding the right matchup. When the ball is snapped, Kenny looks for the right matchup to exploit; in this case, he finds the third receiver in the progression (#11 Taysir Mack), who wins inside leverage on the Clemson linebacker. Once he gains enough separation, Kenny does an excellent job of placing it in an area where his receiver can retrieve it for the touchdown. What is most impressive is Kenny's poise when pressured. His eyes are always upfield, making his reads while anticipating any oncoming pressure.
In situations where there are no open receivers or oncoming pressure, Kenny has demonstrated his ability to leave the pocket and effectively use his mobility to make plays. It is worth noting that he doesn't use it as frequently as contemporaries like Malik Willis or Matt Corral; rather, he's calculated in this area. The fact that he is able to employ his mobility in this manner makes him difficult for opposing teams to scheme against.
It all starts with making the right read. In this sequence against Duke, all of the receivers are accounted for in man coverage. While going through his progressions, Kenny notices a natural opening created by the cover scheme. With little hesitation, he accelerates through the hole and pulls off an impressive run, making defenders miss while making his way to the end zone.
Desired Arm Strength
Kenny may not possess overwhelming arm strength, but it is more than enough to effectively push the ball downfield. On shorter and intermediate routes, he uses the right amount of velocity to execute throws in tight windows. On deep balls, he displays excellent accuracy and ball placement, in addition to the strength needed to make big completions. Regardless of his hand size, his overall film has shown that it has never been a roadblock for him in this domain.
What makes this throw against Virginia impressive is for two reasons: Firstly, he faced pressure from the oncoming Cavaliers' edge rusher, who did a good job of obstructing some of his vision. Secondly, the fact that he executed this throw while slightly off balance and using his back foot. Then there's the ball placement, which was excellent considering the factors mentioned.
In contrast to all the quarterbacks currently on the Steelers' roster, Kenny is arguably the most fundamentally sound. His ability to play the position with the type of structure that leads to high-level results is one of many reasons why he should become the team's QB1 in a short period of time. Inevitably, acclimating to the speed of the game at the NFL level will take some time on his part. When that moment happens, the Steelers' offense has the potential to reach heights not seen in a long time.