We may have just witnessed the beginning of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Kenny Pickett era.
Most early indications out of Steelers training camp so far have suggested that veteran Mitchell Trubisky has had the edge in Pittsburgh’s QB1 battle. But Pickett’s performance in his first game against professional opponents can’t be overlooked.
In the Steelers’ preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks, Pickett looked, well, like the first-round pick he was in this year’s draft. His NFL debut was phenomenal, preseason or not, and he shouldn’t be discounted for playing against some lesser defensive competition as the third quarterback in the game for Pittsburgh.
Pickett didn’t waste any time getting started once he came off the bench five minutes into the second half. In his first drive, the rookie went a perfect 5-of-5 for 33 yards, leading the Steelers on a 75-yard drive that he capped off with his first professional touchdown on a three-yard pass to running back Jaylen Warren.
First preseason drive, first preseason TD for @kennypickett10. 🙌
📺: #SEAvsPIT on @NFLNetwork (check local listings)
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/cINB23wRfG pic.twitter.com/CHMY8mZyBH
— NFL (@NFL) August 14, 2022
He followed that up with a quick pass over the middle to tight end Connor Heyward for the two-point conversion.
Everything seemed to be working early and easily for Pickett thanks in part to the play-calling from offensive coordinator Matt Canada. There weren’t any deep bombs or crazy throws in the first drive, but Pickett did well keeping the drive going with short passes, some off of play-action. There weren’t any deep bombs or crazy plays, but even on shorter passes, his accuracy should be noted still. It is a big part of what made him so successful in college, after all.
At the end of the night, Pickett was 13-of-15 with 94 yards and two touchdowns along with three rushes for 16 yards. He was accurate, looked confident and, unlike his predecessor Ben Roethlisberger, mobile. A couple of Pickett’s rushes were scrambles to avoid pressure out of the pocket, the kind of plays Steelers fans haven’t seen from a Pittsburgh quarterback in quite some time.
Not everything about Pickett’s debut was perfect. There were a couple of plays that revealed the inexperience of a young quarterback; both came as he tried to make a play and took a sack rather than just throwing the ball away. Learning when to try to make something happen and when to just throw the ball away are things that should come with time. Making a couple of those mistakes in a preseason game is very forgivable, especially when one of them involved rising star edge rusher Boye Mafe, a second-round pick in this year’s draft, showing off his elite closing speed.
After all of the success early, even with the few mistakes, it felt like the only thing that could have made Pickett’s rookie debut any better was some kind of storybook ending. Well, with the Steelers and Seahawks knotted at 25 points apiece with 12 seconds to go, Pittsburgh and their rookie quarterback got just that.
Re-watch our win on NFL+: https://t.co/C6T9f39EAk pic.twitter.com/Tien2QWKvE
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 14, 2022
Pickett led his team down the field in the final minutes of his preseason debut and threw the game-winning touchdown pass in the matchup’s final seconds. It was a very fitting cap for what was an overall impressive debut from the 20th overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, and Steelers fans have plenty of reason to be excited about their future at quarterback.
Even if Pickett doesn’t win the starting job over Trubisky (or Mason Rudolph) out of the gate, he’s earned himself more reps with the starters in training camp at the very least and proven himself worthy of ending up the team’s starter by the end of this season. The Pickett era—even if it hasn’t officially begun after an appearance off the bench in a preseason game—is off to a good start.
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