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The Pittsburgh Steelers need a change, but it's not at quarterback

2T70WRA NOV 12, 2023: Kenny Pickett #8 during the Pittsburgh Steelers vs Green Bay Packer game in Pittsburgh, PA. Jason Pohuski/CSM/Sipa USA(Credit Image: © Jason Pohuski/Cal Sport Media/Sipa USA)

Kenny Pickett‘s underwhelming touchdown numbers: Pickett now owns the lowest touchdown rate in league history. Over 300 quarterbacks have attempted at least 500 pass attempts in the NFL, and Pickett is the only one with a touchdown rate under 2.0%.

• Schematic change is desperately needed: The pressure for a change at quarterback will only grow as the team’s struggles mount, but the change that needs to be made is a schematic one. Until this scheme fundamentally changes, the offense will remain mired in mediocrity despite the efforts of some talented playmakers.

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Kenny Pickett and the Pittsburgh Steelers offense are now historically bad, but there are no signs that any significant change will be coming soon, even after a tough Week 11 loss to a Cleveland Browns team quarterbacked by a rookie in his second career start.

Pickett now owns the lowest touchdown rate in league history. Over 300 quarterbacks have attempted at least 500 pass attempts in the NFL, and Pickett is the only one with a touchdown rate under 2.0%.

New York Giants quarterback Tommy DeVito, an undrafted rookie playing behind one of the worst offensive lines seen in years, now has as many touchdown passes as Pickett this season, and DeVito has dropped back just 114 times.

The lowest touchdown percentages in the PFF era (among 110 quarterbacks with at least 500 attempts, postseason included)
Quarterback Dropbacks Att. Comp. Yards TDs INTs TD%
Kenny Pickett 757 670 415 4,126 13 13 1.94%
Brady Quinn 611 550 296 3,039 12 17 2.18%
Zach Wilson 1,105 946 535 5,966 21 25 2.22%
Josh Rosen 592 513 277 2,864 12 21 2.34%
Kellen Clemens 730 637 350 4,053 16 21 2.51%
Marc Bulger 1,169 1,065 612 6,578 27 34 2.54%
JaMarcus Russell 771 680 354 4,083 18 23 2.65%
John Skelton 676 602 320 3,707 16 25 2.66%
Colt McCoy 1,422 1,221 764 7,974 34 32 2.78%
Trent Edwards 1,044 929 563 6,032 26 30 2.80%

There’s no way of painting the struggles in a positive light, but Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin continues to publicly keep the faith in a unit that has been crying out for significant change dating back to at least the start of last year.

For extensive periods of Pittsburgh's Week 11 game, running back Jaylen Warren was the only thing functioning on offense for either team. Warren finished the game with a 93.2 PFF grade, more than 20 grading points better than the next-closest Steeler on offense.

The second-year running back produced a 74-yard touchdown run on his way to averaging 14.3 yards per carry and 5.3 yards per reception but played just 26 total snaps — less than 50% of the available plays.

It took Pittsburgh half the season to come to the obvious conclusion that Warren was a more effective and explosive threat than Najee Harris and make him the starter. But that distinction is meaningless if Harris is still going to play seven more snaps than Warren in a game in which Warren was the only threat.

It’s important to note that the Browns defense is phenomenal — historically good — and the Steelers have faced a difficult slate of opposition, but this isn’t the first season with a stagnant offense.

When things go badly, there is always a clamoring for the backup quarterback or a backlash against the starter. And with Mitchell Trubisky in-house, Pickett is coming under fire right now, but it’s hard to view him as the principal problem.


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