Steelers camp: Kenny Pickett’s running for his life, and it’s not going well so far – The Athletic

Steelers camp: Kenny Pickett’s running for his life, and it’s not going well so far - The Athletic
Written by admin sati

LATROBE, Pa. — Kenny Pickett hasn’t had a good first three days of training camp, and that’s pretty much putting it lightly.

The Steelers’ first-round pick has been erratic and inconsistent throwing the ball, as he has been saddled with all third-team reps through the ramp-up period of training camp so far. It has some believing it will be impossible for him to grow quickly enough to be a Week 1 starter in Cincinnati, especially if Mitch Trubisky keeps progressing and Mason Rudolph continues to shine.

While the plan of how the quarterback battle will proceed through the rest of camp hasn’t been revealed, this is for sure: The coaching staff isn’t ramping up Pickett’s confidence by continuing to play him behind the third-team offensive line. It has become quite clear that the third-team defensive front seven — which includes Donovan Jeter, Doug Costin, T.D. Moultry, Marcus Allen and Buddy Johnson — is way further along than the offensive line.

Pickett has been running for his life the first three practices, and Friday’s session might have been the worst of them all.

The majority of the time Pickett was able to complete passes was either seven-on-seven (a perfect 4-of-4) or when he moved from the pocket, either by design or not. When he stood in the pocket, he was pressured immediately and threw ill-advised throws to a spot rather than to a receiver.

“It’s not going to be perfect the first couple of days,” Pickett said before practice. “I have to learn from it and move on. There are a lot of days of camp left.”

Now, Pickett wasn’t good Friday. His first pass should have been picked off by Linden Stephens, but the cornerback didn’t turn around, and the ball him in the back. Pickett then sprinted out and hit Mataeo Durant with a strike. When he did have time, he didn’t get much help from his receivers, with a Gunner Olszewski drop and a couple of throws that looked like miscommunications.

“We talk about it every night in meetings,” said Jake Dixon, who is Pickett’s left tackle. “We have to do our job so everybody else can do their jobs. Keeping the pocket clean for Kenny is an important job for the offensive line.”

Some questioned Pickett’s pocket presence in college, with The Athletic’s Dane Brugler saying in his scouting report that Pickett had “skittish tendencies” as the result of playing behind a poor offensive line at Pitt in 2020. Given that, protecting him well should be a top priority, especially early on.

Even though Pickett has taken third-team work, the quarterbacks’ reps have been pretty even.

Trubisky has taken 52 snaps (all first team), Rudolph 50 (all second team) and Pickett 44 (all third team) through three sessions. Rookie Chris Oladokun has yet to take one snap during team periods.

My 10 observations from Day 3 of camp:

1. The much debated Seven Shots goal-line drill was run for the second day with the same participants at quarterback: Trubisky and Rudolph, with Pickett still waiting for his opportunity. It’s not unusual that the top two on the depth chart participate in the drill. Surely, Pickett will get a series soon. As for what happened, Trubisky was awful, and Rudolph was pretty good.

  1. With Trubisky under center, he read single coverage with the split-out Zach Gentry and tossed a fade to the corner of the end zone. Strong safety Terrell Edmunds was in the perfect position to knock it away. (1-0, defense).
  2. Trubisky was pressured immediately and scrambled to his right. If it was a live drill, T.J. Watt would’ve sacked him from behind (2-0, defense).
  3. George Pickens came in motion. Trubisky got late pressure from Alex Highsmith that forced him to throw it high and over the head of Anthony Miller. (3-0, defense).
  4. Rudolph fired a pass to Kevin Rader over the middle, but Damontae Kazee was in a good position to create the incompletion. (4-0, defense).
  5. With Rudolph starting under center, he flung a pass into the slot to running back Jeremy McNichols for the score. (4-1, defense).
  6. Rudolph made a quick read to the outside and a decisive throw that barely got the ball over a leaping outside linebacker and in between Karl Joseph and James Pierre to Steven Sims for the conversion. (4-2, offense).
  7. Rudolph was pressured immediately, forcing a high and outside throw to Tyler Vaughns with Ulysees Gilbert III in coverage. (5-2, defense)

The defense and offense have each won one day apiece, with Trubisky going 3-of-7 and Rudolph 4-of-7 two times through the drill.

2. Former general manager Kevin Colbert had a knack for drafting receivers. Sure, it is only three days, but Pickens and Calvin Austin III could make his final class one of his best ever if the two keep up what they are doing in camp.

Pickens took an out pattern from Trubisky on the second play of team drills Friday and turned it into a nearly 40-yard gain before getting wrangled down by a pursuing Devin Bush. What made the play eye-opening is that Pickens showed the ability to get out of his cut and turn it upfield. Many have said that he isn’t the best route runner but this play discounted that.

3. Austin had a 61-yard touchdown on Day 1 and caught a handful of passes Thursday. Everybody was waiting for the diminutive 5-foot-11 (wink, wink) 189-pound receiver to take that first big hit. That came during the second team period, when Trubisky connected with him over the middle only for Kazee to put a hard hit on Austin that folded him over and dislodged the ball.

Mind you, there is no hitting during the first week of practice. Austin popped up and dusted himself off (literally) before returning to the huddle showing no ill effects of the hit. Tomlin was a little taken back by the physicality.

“I’d rather say, ‘Whoa,’ than, ‘Sick him,’ and in that instance, ‘Whoa,’” Tomlin said.

4. Rudolph probably had his best day of camp. What has become noticeable is his accuracy over the middle and his ability to look off a defensive back before getting back to his main target. He has been very good at that. During the first team period and after a terrible first rep, Rudolph looked off the safety and connected with Miller across the middle on a perfectly placed slant pattern.

Two plays later, Rudolph went deep to Miles Boykin down the left sideline. It was a little overthrown, allowing Pierre to recover, but Boykin, who has struggled at times, hesitated once he noticed the ball was in the air, which led to it being a bit overthrown. Later, Rudolph ran a waggle that showed he can get out of the pocket and put a strike on Cody White, who dropped it.

5. The offense did a whole heck of a lot of movement before the snap on this day — much more than the first two. One of Matt Canada’s favorite motions is having the tailback split outside in the slot before he flexes alongside the quarterback in shotgun.

Late in practice, we saw our first real jet sweep when Austin took the ball and was able to pick up good yards coming from right to left across the formation. There were a couple of waggle plays and some sort of motion or double motion on pretty much every snap. It has been much more than we ever saw last year.

6. While the motion is supposed to help the run game, we haven’t seen that much yet. First, there haven’t been many run reps through three practices, and when you divide that between four players, not much registers. Surely, when the pads come on Monday, we will see more running team periods. For now, there hasn’t been much to speak of. So, it’s safe to say that nobody has stood out yet.

7. Gentry got the opportunity to take first-team reps at tight end with Pat Freiermuth out with a sore hamstring. Surely, nobody expects Gentry to produce like Freiermuth, but being the No. 2 means he’s going to be asked to make more plays than he has during his first three years.

Gentry had an up-and-down day less than 24 hours after dropping a pair of passes. He dropped another, and he was unable to bring down a combat catch in the back of the end zone during Seven Shots. However, he made a nice over-the-shoulder catch from Trubisky in the first team period, as he was able to beat Myles Jack. Jace Sternberger also got some elevated reps, as did Kevin Rader.

8. For the second day in a row, there was a fight. This one was a little more eventful than the first one because it involved brothers. Dixon blocked “to the whistle” and took defensive tackle Carlos Davis to the ground. Brother Khalil Davis didn’t appreciate that and sprinted across the field and put a hit on Dixon, knocking him to the ground. A scuffle ensued that had rookie Tyree Johnson needing to be pulled from the pile by Alex Highsmith and a coach.

“Playing to the whistle, and it ended how it did,” Dixon said. “Going hard and trying to mix it up a little bit. It’s the third day of camp, we’re just trying to get after it.”

There was a skirmish earlier between Davis and Kendrick Green.

9. Olszewski, who has been pretty active at wide receiver during his first three days of practice, put on a show for the fans Friday when he tried to catch and hold on to five punts, one after another. He was able to hang on to four, but the fifth one slipped through his hands as he lost control of the other four footballs. Olszewski was signed in the offseason as a punt return specialist but has stood out working with the second-team receivers, making several catches in what has been a pretty packed receiver room.

10. Chase Claypool was injured during the fourth play of the first team period and did not return. He ran a crossing route and bumped into a defender and immediately grabbed his shoulder/upper arm region. Tomlin later called it a shoulder injury and said it was “probably not serious.” … More than 17,000 fans are expected to attend Saturday’s final practice of the week, when they will announce the Hall of Honor inductees. … Boykin didn’t have the best of days, as he dropped a deep pass and slowed down on another that allowed the defender to tip the ball away. … Robert Spillane — yes, inside linebacker Robert Spillane — spent more than 20 minutes after practice running routes for Oladokun, the seventh-round rookie quarterback.

(Top photo: Charles LeClaire / USA Today)

#Steelers #camp #Kenny #Picketts #running #life #Athletic

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