Steelers’ Selection Of Pickett Tees Him Up For Top Rookie Honor

Pittsburgh signal-caller leads early odds for Offensive Rookie of the Year
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When the Steelers made Kenny Pickett the only quarterback taken in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft last Thursday, it put him squarely in the eyes of oddsmakers as the league’s most likely Offensive Rookie of the Year winner in 2022.

The Pitt-turned-Steelers QB — who was overcome with emotion when tabbed by the black-and-gold with the 20th overall pick to keep him at Heinz Field — is a great story for Pittsburghers, but also has the potential to be profitable for bettors using Pennsylvania’s sportsbooks.

That all depends on Pickett’s playing time, of course, as he is likely to duel with free-agent signee Mitchell Trubisky for the right to be the team’s starter, with returning backup Mason Rudolph also in the picture for now. One of those three will be replacing future Hall-of-Famer Ben Roethlisberger, who retired after 18 seasons guiding the Steelers.

Odds on Pickett to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year received a boost from the fact that none of the other top quarterbacks coming out of college — Malik Willis (a Tennessee Titans pick), Desmond Ridder (Atlanta Falcons), and Matt Corral (Carolina Panthers) — were drafted before the third round. Even if there’s no certainty about Pickett’s status as a starter, the other three rookie QBs could have a harder time achieving that role with their own teams.

Thus, no other quarterback but Pickett appears at the top of odds for rookie honors. He is +500 at DraftKings, Betway, PointsBet, and Kambi-backed sportsbooks including BetRivers, Unibet, TwinSpires, PlaySugarHouse, Barstool, and Parx. FOX Bet lists him +550, but the best bet for a believer in Pickett would actually be with BetMGM at +650.

Receivers represent big challengers

When voting by AP writers made the Cincinnati Bengals’ Ja’Marr Chase the 2021 winner, he was the first wide receiver to claim the honor since Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014. As with most offensive awards, quarterbacks are generally favored, with Justin Herbert (2020), Kyler Murray (2019), and Dak Prescott (2016) winning in three of the five prior years.

Chase was well down the list behind five rookie quarterbacks in preseason odds last year before his 81 receptions for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns overshadowed all of them. And now Pickett’s Rookie of the Year competition is deemed to come primarily from a group of stud receivers taken high in the draft.

Most commonly behind him in odds is Drake London, drafted 8th overall by the Atlanta Falcons after catching 88 balls with 7 TDs in his final season at USC. His odds are as short as +600 at PointsBet, with DraftKings at the other end at +750.

The other wide receivers in the mix are Treylon Burks (Tennessee Titans, out of Arkansas), Christian Watson (Green Bay Packers/North Dakota State), and Garrett Wilson (New York Jets/Ohio State). Odds on them are generally in the range of +700 to +900.

And then there’s the one running back considered the most likely to win the award at his position: Breece Hall, whom the New York Jets traded up for in the second round to grab out of Iowa State with the 36th overall pick. He has odds ranging from +650 at FOX Bet to +900 at BetMGM and DraftKings. The last running back to win the award was Saquon Barkley in 2018.

Due to Pickett’s high-profile position, he could have an advantage over all those others if he can just get the playing time. One thing helping in that regard is the Steelers, and pro scouts generally, view him as a mature player with NFL-ready skills rather than representing a longer-term project like the more athletic Willis.

The key question is how well Trubisky will perform in his early days with the Steelers to block the rookie. In that regard, the former Bears and Bills signal-caller has his own odds from the sportsbooks: They generally peg him about sixth in line for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award, with BetMGM and PointsBet offering the best potential reward to bettors at +1400.

Photo: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY

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