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5Qs, 5As with Behind the Steel Curtain: How is Kenny Pickett performing early into his second season?

What’s Kenny Pickett’s NFL ceiling? “His absolute ceiling is being Jimmy Garoppolo”

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams finish up their three-game homestand at SoFi Stadium against the Pittsburgh Steelers who are 3-point underdogs according to DraftKings Sportsbook. LA is looking to go over .500 for the first time since Week 1.

Even though the Steelers aren’t a great team on paper, they should never be taken lightly. I spoke with Jarrett Bailey from SB Nation’s Steelers blog Behind the Steel Curtain to gain more insight on the opposition ahead of their Week 7 matchup.

Q - Second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett has been noticeably up and down through the first five games of the season. However, Pickett led a strong comeback against the Ravens in Week 5, heading into the bye week on a winning note. How would you assess Pickett so early into his NFL career?

A - It was a reach to take Pickett in the first round. He doesn’t have good pocket presence, doesn’t have a big arm, and he has an overall low ceiling. Having Matt Canada as his offensive coordinator doesn’t help, but we aren’t seeing much of a step forward, if any, in Pittsburgh with Pickett. His absolute ceiling is being Jimmy Garoppolo.

Q - The name of offensive coordinator Matt Canada has become a slur in the city of Pittsburgh given his offenses have been ranked towards the bottom half of the league during his tenure. Canada has been the Steelers’ OC since 2021 and his play calling has been a major source of scrutiny. What about Canada’s scheme has been so ineffective and why does Mike Tomlin continue putting up with him on the coaching staff?

A - There’s just nothing efficient about Canada’s offense. For starters, he doesn’t utilize the middle of the field. If you look at any of Kenny Pickett’s passing charts, they look largely the same- a bunch of clustered dots on either sideline and a largely blank space between the numbers. The way he calls the offense is horrid, too. They still can’t run the ball, so if it’s first down and the run, they are more than likely going to be in second and long. If you throw an incompletion or run for no gain, or lose yards, then you’re staring at third and long. That’s what the Steelers run into on just about every drive- they can’t get ahead of the sticks. He’s a bad play-caller, a bad schematic mind, and lacks any sort of forward thinking or innovation.

Q - Running back Najee Harris has yet to reach the end zone in 2023 and has struggled mightily so far this season. Given his issues running the ball, some fans and analysts want Harris benched. What factors are contributing to Harris’ struggles and how might he turn his season around?

A - Well, the offensive line is bad. Mason Cole is a black hole at center, and if your center is constantly getting beat, then it’s basically a wrap when you try to run the ball. Harris shoulders some blame too, though. He lacks any sort of explosiveness. Anytime I watch Harris in space, it looks like he runs in slow motion. When you watch Jaylen Warren run, though, it’s the complete opposite. He’s quicker, he’s twitchier, he’s more explosive, and we have seen in almost every game thus far that he is more prime to gain positive yardage and break off a big play. So the lack of explosiveness, combined with fans wanting more of Warren are the two biggest factors for Harris, but the poor offensive line doesn’t do him many favors.

Q - Through Pittsburgh’s first five games, TJ Watt led the NFL with eight sacks. Obviously Watt is a force on defense and is one of the best players in the league regardless of position. What makes Watt so special and if it’s possible, how might the Rams’ O-line slow him down this week?

A - His drive. He’s so ruthless when it comes to getting to the quarterback. He can power through double-teams, he can bend under and around tackles- he’s the complete package. He’s never out of a play, either. His motor never stops running, and he is the unquestioned best player on the roster. To slow him down, have some extra help. Double team him, chip him off the snap with a tight end. Even then, though, he’s still likely going to get his at some point and you still have to worry about Alex Highsmith

Q - The Steelers are listed as a 3-point underdog with an O/U of 43.5 according to DraftKings Sportsbook. What are your expectations for this game and how do the Steelers take care of business?

A - I expect the Rams to win. The Steelers have allowed big receiving performances in four of their five games thus far, and facing a duo like Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua is not a good matchup for their secondary. The Rams win and cover, and I will take the over. Final score prediction from me is 24-20 Rams.