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Mike Tomlin: Kenny Pickett needs to be what we need him to be

The Steelers enter the 2023 season with second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett firmly in place as their starter.

The 20th overall pick of last year’s draft, Pickett led Pittsburgh to a 7-5 record in the 12 games he started. He completed 63.0 percent of his passes for 2,404 yards with seven touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Head coach Mike Tomlin said on Wednesday that Pickett should be better in large part because he has a year of experience.

“[T]his is the second lap around the track for him like it is all our second-year players,” Tomlin said in his press conference, “so I think it’s reasonable for them to proceed with that knowing and that knowing to be displayed in their production and the consistency of their play. He’s no different than any other second-year player in that regard, it’s just that he’s our quarterback.”

One change that Tomlin acknowledged with Pickett is that the distribution of reps will be different because there isn’t a competition. And that could make things more productive in camp.

But Tomlin did note that he’d like the offense to be more explosive with Pickett behind center in 2023.

“We want to get yards in chunks … but we also want to possess the ball and control the flow of the game, and so we’ve got to do all things if we want to be a dominant group, and that’s a component of it,” Tomlin said. “We weren’t explosive enough a year ago in terms of chunk plays, and so there’s a focus there.

“[Pickett] needs to be what we need him to be,” Tomlin added. “I know that he’s preparing with that mindset, and I like his approach and his demeanor in that regard, but I think whether you’re talking about guys like quarterbacks or guys like me as a head coach, we need to be what our team needs us to be.”