When Pittsburgh Steelers legend Franco Harris stepped to the podium to announce his former team’s first-round draft pick back in April, there were several names he could’ve said and none of them would’ve been a surprise.
Harris, of course, announced that the Steelers had selected Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett with the No. 20 overall pick.
While it wasn’t a surprise to hear Pickett’s name called, it also wouldn’t have been a surprise to hear Harris say Desmond Ridder’s name or Malik Willis’ name, a couple of quarterbacks that were strongly connected to Pittsburgh during the pre-draft process.
Did the Steelers make the right selection?
It’s obviously far too early to know how Pickett’s career will turn out in the NFL.
One thing we do know, though, is that Pickett is far from a sure thing. He was considered the most “NFL ready” quarterback in the draft, but he wasn’t viewed as the quarterback with the most upside.
That designation went to Ridder and Willis. One of the reasons the Steelers passed on those two quarterbacks is because they wanted to select a quarterback that could compete with free-agent addition Mitch Trubisky this fall.
Pittsburgh essentially sacrificed upside for immediacy.
And that might have been a mistake.
It sounds like Ridder, who was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, is further along than NFL scouts anticipated him being at this point of his young career.
Falcons head coach Arthur Smith raved about Ridder’s progression this week, saying that he’s “light years ahead” of most young quarterbacks.
“Behind the scenes, the things that he has done, as a rookie, really from the neck up,” said Smith (via AtlantaFalcons.com). “How he’s operating, when we’re doing the rookie walk-throughs, when we do these installations and on the field, and his command. Then you’re betting on some of the physical things you see at times to catch up. He’s light years ahead of most young quarterbacks, in terms of playing from the neck up. I will give him that compliment.”
The reviews on Pickett so far haven’t been bad, but they haven’t been glowing (like the reviews of Ridder), either. The early reports from Pittsburgh’s minicamps are that Trubisky is expected to be the starter in 2022. Pickett is currently operating as the No. 3 quarterback behind Mason Rudolph (though we expect that will change by the start of the season).
It seemed like the Steelers selected Pickett because he was more pro-ready and had a ton of starting experience in college. But if Trubisky is going to be the guy this season, then why didn’t they take Ridder and let him sit a year? Especially if it was widely accepted that he had more upside than Pickett?
Maybe Pickett will be the next Ben Roethlisberger. It’s too early to pass judgment. But based on what we’re hearing so far, it sounds like Ridder might have been a better choice than Pickett.
Featured image via Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports