PITTSBURGH — Kenny Pickett wants to throw the ball deep in an effort to get the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense going. The rookie quarterback, however, isn’t going to do it just to do it.
Pickett said Wednesday there are different ways to create the sort of “splash” plays the Steelers (2-5) need to take some of the pressure off their defense rather than just chucking it as far as he can.
“You get guys the ball on the run and let our athletes be athletes and get them in space,” Pickett said. “That’s another way we can get some of the (big) plays. So, there’s different ways to do it. We’re working hard at it.”
Pittsburgh’s offense has struggled to generate much of anything over the season’s first seven weeks whether Pickett or Mitch Trubisky — who started Week 1 before being benched earlier this month in favor of Pickett — is under center.
The Steelers are 31st in points, 30th in total offense and near the bottom of the league in yards per pass attempt and yards per rushing attempt. Pittsburgh is one of three teams without a 20-yard rush and has just one completion over 40 yards this season, and that came on a busted coverage late in an upset victory over Tampa Bay on Oct. 16.
The inability to flip the field with big plays is forcing the Steelers to put together long drives in order to score. That’s asking a lot for a young group that doesn’t have a starter over 28 years old.
“Overall, I think you see more production out of the offense when you have splash plays and points are going to be put up on the board,” Pickett said. “It’s something that we need to get right.”
Pickett has played with energy during his first three NFL starts, but has had issues taking care of the ball. He’s thrown seven interceptions through essentially 12 quarters of play. Trubisky by comparison, had two interceptions in 3 1/2 games before giving way to Pickett.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has repeatedly praised Pickett’s competitiveness and is willing to let the 20th overall pick in last spring’s draft endure some growing pains. Pickett would prefer to speed things up with Pittsburgh off to its worst start since 2013.
“I’m definitely learning,” Pickett said. “I felt like there was a lot of good I did, and then there’s definitely some bad. It’s not going to be a smooth process.”
Pickett nearly helped Pittsburgh steal a victory in Miami, taking the Steelers down the field twice in the fourth quarter only to throw a pair of interceptions in Dolphins territory.
“There were definitely positives but ‘almost’ doesn’t get you anything, right” Pickett said. “You want to go finish the game. I felt like we were efficient at the two-minute until the turnover, the turnover play. It’s something that I’ll learn from, and I think we’ll learn from as a group.”
NOTES: All-Pro outside linebacker T.J. Watt returned to practice on Wednesday for the first time since tearing his pectoral muscle in a season-opening win over Cincinnati. The Steelers have 21 days to activate Watt to the 53-man roster. He will not play on Sunday in Philadelphia. Pittsburgh is off the following week and returns to play at home on Nov. 12 against New Orleans. … DT Larry Ogunjobi (knee), DT Montravius Adams (hamstring), CB Levi Wallace (shoulder) and DB Josh Jackson (groin) did not practice Wednesday.