Former New Orleans Saints quarterback Chase Daniel is pulling double-duty these days as a panelist on the NFL GameDay postgame show while backing up Justin Herbert with the Los Angeles Chargers, offering his insight as someone who’s been in the league for 13 years. You could say he’s seen a thing or two in-between trips to the bank cashing checks from six different teams as a veteran backup.
And he was impressed by Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett in Monday night’s win over the Indianapolis Colts. Though he admitted Pickett hasn’t found many wins this year while experiencing some first-year struggles, he tipped his cap to the former Pitt Panther after taking down the Colts in prime time.
“But today he balled out. I was just loving how he was so good situationally,” Daniel said, highlighting the Steelers’ efficiency on third down and in the red zone. He continued, “He looked really, really comfortable out there. Now this is the fifth-ranked Colts defense, they’re not some ‘mess around’ type defense. This is a great learning experience for him. He’s going to move on with a lot of confidence.”
The Saints chose to pass on Pickett with the No. 19 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, instead selecting left tackle Trevor Penning. Pickett went off the board a few minutes later to the Steelers. Fast-forward to a few months later and he’s taking down the Saints in a 20-10 upset. So should New Orleans have some buyer’s remorse here? Or at least thoughts of what-might-have-been?
Probably not. Pickett’s struggles are well-documented, and his performance (3.98 adjusted net yards per pass attempt, which accounts for touchdown passes, sacks, and interceptions) has clocked in near the likes of Zach Wilson (3.86) and Blake Bortles (3.81) as some of the least-effective rookie quarterbacks to hit the field over the last decade. He very likely wouldn’t have been an upgrade over Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton had New Orleans picked him at No. 19 overall. If the Steelers hadn’t taken him there, he may have not been drafted in the first round at all.
Still, we’ll never know how it might have turned out otherwise. At this point all you can do is tip your hat to Pickett finding ways to win and hope Penning works his way into the starting lineup soon. The Saints’ offensive line hasn’t met expectations this season, and hopes are high for Penning — he’s more or less valued as their 2023 first round pick, with New Orleans having traded that selection to get the draft choice spent on him. Hopefully both players, Penning and Pickett, can go on to enjoy productive careers in the NFL.