With the conclusion of the NFL draft on Saturday, Pro Football Focus drafts scores for each team. Despite criticism for selecting Pitt QB Kenny Pickett in the first round, the Steelers earned a B+ from the PFF. While the PFF was tough on Pickett, picks for WR George Pickens, DL DeMarvin Leal and WR Calvin Austin garnered some praise.
“Delegating a quarterback without having to trade-in is a big win for Pittsburgh, but capturing Kenny Pickett is not. The quarterback has been fourth on the 2022 PFF big board. There is some serious concern about how his game will translate to the NFL. The Pittsburgh producer averaged 3.19 seconds per pitch in 2021, the third lowest mark on FBS. In fact, it would have been the slowest among NFL quarterbacks this past season,” they wrote.
Given that Ben Roethlisberger has had the fastest throw time for the NFL in the past two seasons at 2.30 and 2.37 seconds, it could be a huge adjustment if Beckett becomes the start in 2022. Willis owner PFF Sam Howell and Desmond Ryder had Beckett ahead of the board their draft. However, it is clear that Pittsburgh’s comfort level with Beckett has exceeded any concerns they might have about his handling.
“While Beckett is a fine athlete, he is not close to dynamic enough to make hay on the ground in the pro ranks. Holding on to the ball with pressure is often welcome, and 34 pressures were directed at Beckett this past season, finishing second in the FBS. He should be faster And more decisive in making the decision. And speeding up the tackling of a midfielder is easier said than done – it’s an important problem.”
While Beckett isn’t nearly as dynamic on the ground as Willis, he’s still an improvement in that area over Roethlisberger. If necessary, he would be able to play some plays with his two feet. However, given Beckett’s number of seconds per shot and high pressing rate, he’ll need to tweak the way he plays to fit the NFL. The Steelers’ offensive streak must improve this season, but Beckett has to improve his pocket awareness and get his readings through faster to become a factor in the NFL.
Regarding Pickens and Leal, the PFF praised Leal’s value and spoke about Pickens’ untapped potential.
“George Pickens does carry some risks due to his medical and unknown off-court history, but there is no denying that he has the potential of a true ‘X’ receiver. He is physical with a massive pickup radius, outstanding ball skills and good acceleration. Pickens earned an amazing 88.0 score as he earned On a score as a real freshman before injuries derailed the last couple of years.Before his final season, DeMarvin Leal was seen as a big prospect in the first round.He slipped in his final season and stuck a bit stuck between positions, but there’s real talent there—and in This stage of the draft, the risk is worth the risk. Leal had a score of 88.3 PFF in 2020 and moved to a team with the right environment to find his best plays.”
Pickens blocking in the downfield is an underestimated trait, and his potential is obvious if he can stay on the field. He seemed to be part of a wide receiver during his freshman year when he scored 49 receptions for 727 yards and 8 touchdowns before injuries derailed his college run. Pickens will likely enter as WR3 on the Steelers depth chart behind Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool for the time being. Leal gives the Steelers depth and flexibility along the offensive line. He can play indoors or out, although he may try to focus on just one position as a professional. He struggled already in 2021, but was ridiculed as a potential top ten pick for pre-season. Pittsburgh got so much value that it was able to get Leal with pick number 84.
Finally, the PFF concluded their analysis by talking about Calvin Austin Jr., the second pick-up receiver from Pittsburgh.
“Calvin Austin’s size is going to be a limiting factor in the NFL – there’s no way around that. However, that still looks like a good value for a dynamic playmaker like Austin. He’s an explosive athlete who can be used as a moving tool in Matt Canada’s attack. Kenny Beckett, George Pickens and Austin all add some much-needed talent in attacking the Steelers in this draft.”
Austin’s dash time of 4.32 40 yards was impressive, and as the PFF says, his speed and making will make him useful in Matt Canada’s attack. Austin has the potential to be a fast slot receiver who can play many roles for Pittsburgh. Austin has had over 1,000 yards in each of his last two seasons in Memphis and will look to make an immediate impact with the Steelers.
While draft scores are somewhat arbitrary at this point in the process, critics are clearly impressed with what the Steelers did in the draft.