Kenny Pickett is a quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers who has been sidelined by an ankle injury since Week 14 of the 2023 NFL season. He was drafted in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft after a stellar college career at the University of Pittsburgh, where he won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award as the best senior quarterback in the nation. Pickett has faced some challenges and controversies in his rookie season, including rumors about his refusal to back up Mason Rudolph and his decision to undergo surgery on his injured ankle.
Who Is Kenny Pickett?
Kenny Pickett, born on June 6, 1998, is a 25-year-old American football quarterback currently playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL. Hailing from Ocean Township, New Jersey, he excelled in high school at Ocean Township before attending the University of Pittsburgh from 2017 to 2021.
At Pittsburgh, Pickett started 43 games and threw for 11,660 yards and 81 touchdowns, breaking several school records. He also ran for 1,072 yards and 19 touchdowns, showing his dual-threat ability. In his senior year, he led the Panthers to their first ACC Championship and a victory over Michigan State in the Peach Bowl. He also won the ACC Player of the Year, the ACC Offensive Player of the Year, and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which is given to the best senior quarterback in the nation.
Pickett was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft with the 20th overall pick, becoming the first quarterback drafted by the Steelers in the first round since Ben Roethlisberger in 2004. He signed a four-year contract worth $13.6 million, with a $7.3 million signing bonus.
What Happened to Kenny Pickett?
Pickett started his rookie season as the third-string quarterback behind Roethlisberger and Rudolph, but he quickly moved up the depth chart after Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending elbow injury in Week 2. Pickett made his NFL debut in Week 3 against the Cincinnati Bengals, completing 23 of 32 passes for 281 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in a 27-24 loss. He earned his first NFL win in Week 4 against the Green Bay Packers, throwing for 314 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 31-28 victory.
Pickett continued to impress as the Steelers’ starting quarterback, leading them to a 10-4 record and a playoff berth. He threw for 4,474 yards, 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, ranking 10th in the league in passing yards and 13th in passer rating. He also ran for 296 yards and four touchdowns, showing his mobility and athleticism. He was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month for October and November, and was considered a frontrunner for the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
However, Pickett’s rookie season took a turn for the worse in Week 14, when he suffered a high ankle sprain in the fourth quarter of a 24-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He was carted off the field and did not return to the game. He was initially expected to miss two to four weeks, but he opted to undergo surgery on his ankle to repair the ligament damage and ensure a full recovery. He was placed on injured reserve, ending his regular season.
Pickett’s decision to have surgery sparked some controversy, as some reports suggested that he refused to back up Rudolph in case he was needed in the playoffs. According to these reports, Pickett was unhappy with the Steelers’ coaching staff and felt that he deserved to be the undisputed starter. He also reportedly clashed with Rudolph, who was resentful of Pickett’s success and popularity. Pickett denied these rumors, saying that he had a good relationship with Rudolph and the coaches, and that he chose surgery because it was the best option for his long-term health and career.
Updates and News on Kenny Pickett
Pickett is currently recovering from his ankle surgery and is expected to be ready for the 2024 season. He has been seen wearing a protective boot and using crutches, but he has also been working out and rehabbing his ankle. He has expressed his support for his teammates and his confidence in Rudolph, who has taken over as the Steelers’ starting quarterback in his absence.
Rudolph has led the Steelers to a 2-1 record in the last three games, throwing for 647 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. He has helped the Steelers clinch the AFC North division title and secure the third seed in the AFC playoffs. The Steelers will face the sixth-seeded Miami Dolphins in the wild-card round on Sunday, January 21, 2024.
Pickett is questionable for the playoffs, as he is eligible to return from injured reserve after the wild-card round. However, it is unlikely that he will be cleared to play, as he is still recovering from his surgery and has not practiced with the team. Even if he is healthy enough to play, it is unclear if the Steelers would bench Rudolph, who has performed well and has more experience in the postseason. The Steelers have not made any official announcement on Pickett’s status or availability for the playoffs.
Kenny Pickett is a talented and promising quarterback who has had a remarkable rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but who has also faced some challenges and controversies along the way. He is currently recovering from an ankle injury and surgery that ended his regular season, and his playoff status is uncertain. He has denied the rumors that he refused to back up Rudolph or that he had any issues with the coaches or his teammates. He has expressed his optimism and support for the Steelers, who are preparing to face the Dolphins in the wild-card round. Pickett is expected to be fully healthy and ready for the 2024 season, where he will look to resume his role as the Steelers’ franchise quarterback and lead them to more success.