The 49ers expect a confident Steelers offense under QB Kenny Pickett – NBC Sports Bay Area & CA

SANTA CLARA – After opening last season with six losses in their first eight games, the Pittsburgh Steelers ran out of steam.

Specifically, quarterback Kenny Pickett has played at a level that gives the Steelers cause for optimism going into the 2023 NFL season.

And the 49 are those who consider themselves believers.

“He’s got the talent around him, and he’s making those throws and he looks really confident,” 49ers’ veteran safety Tashon Gibson said Monday of Pickett.

“Going back to his film last year, compared to this year, he looks like a midfield player who is confident in taking every shot.”

The 49ers open the regular season Sunday in Pittsburgh, against a potential contender for the AFC North title, the Steelers.

Much of the Steelers’ hopes rest on Pickett’s shoulders.

Overall, his freshman season was disappointing. Pickett averaged just 6.2 yards per pass attempt, threw seven touchdown passes, had nine interceptions and a 76.7 passer rating.

But as the Steelers moved on to finish 9-8, Pickett became the first rookie quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to win four or more games as a starter and throw fewer than two interceptions in November and December.

The Steelers went 6-1 with Pickett to close out the season, and he was the first rookie in NFL history to lead in last-minute game-winning touchdown runs in consecutive weeks.

“The quarterback has jumped, as you can see in the preseason, from year one to year two,” Talanoa Hovanga told 49ers safety.

“The jump he’s making is impressive. He’s a little bit more comfortable there. You even see stuff online about the move he’s making and the growth you want in a sophomore.

Pickett, 20th overall, was the first quarterback selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.

For what it’s worth, Pickett played five innings during the preseason, and the Steelers scored touchdowns on each of those possessions.

Pickett completed 13 of 15 passes for 199 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Steelers will want to make things as easy for Pickett as possible, with a two-pronged running game featuring 242-pound Naji Harris and speedy, elusive Gaylen Warren.

Pickett can field the ball in the passing game to wide receivers Deontay Johnson and George Pickens, as well as tight end Pat Freremuth.

“He throws the ball with confidence and that shows in the movie,” Gibson said. “This offense is tapping. They’ve been looking really good in pre-season, so we’ll do the work for us.

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(marks for translation) Huvanga Talk (R) Tashaun Gibson

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