When you consider the path Kenny Pickett has taken to becoming the starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, it has been a circuitous, to say the least. Entering offseason workouts as the QB3 on the depth chart, Pickett barely got any snaps with the starters. As training camp progressed, he started to be thrown in periodically with the first team offense. During the preseason, Pickett saw playing time, but only a small sample size was with the offensive line who is tasked with blocking for him now. Throughout the first three weeks of the regular season Pickett handled second string duties, and watched Mitch Trubisky get the starting reps with the starters.
For some, the above paragraph doesn’t mean much. As football players, and especially a first round draft pick, you are expected to perform when called upon. That’s understandable, but the reality of the situation was Pickett didn’t have much of a rapport with anyone in the starting lineup heading into the regular season.
With a full week under his belt, Pickett is starting to get comfortable in his new role as the team’s starting quarterback. When he spoke to the media Wednesday he spoke about his comfort level, and comparing this week to where he was just one week ago.
“It felt a lot better this first day of practice versus last week.” Pickett recalled. “Obviously, last week was my first time really getting full days work with those guys. I felt like today was a lot cleaner from a timing standpoint and in assignment. I think our guys really did a good job of studying the game plan and being more focused, something that we’ve been talking about. Having less missed attempts and getting guys in the right spot. So, really happy with the first day of work so far.”
So, with Pickett now having practice reps under his belt, will the fans be treated to some new offensive scheme? New plays? A new approach?
“It’s the same system, same plays. I don’t think anything was really changed.” Pickett said. “We threw it a lot last week because we had to, right? We were down. It’s kind of like the hand we’re dealt, that’s what we’ve got to go with. We’ve got to make plays and finish in the end zone.”
Pickett’s previous answer about how his timing with receivers has improved should equate to a better performance on Sunday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town. Is the timing where it should be for Pickett and his targets? Maybe not fully there, but, according to Pickett, it’s getting better each day.
“It’s good. I’m focusing on all the guys. There are certain plays that you know you’re probably going to get a certain look where you want to get that rep in practice. That’s something I definitely try to communicate to the guys, like, “Hey, I’m looking at you first here, let’s get a full speed rep at it so the first time we get it isn’t in a game.”
“Because I’ve missed so much time not getting any reps at all with the 2s and not getting any reps at camp really with the 1s, now that I have the opportunity to do that, it’s something I want to keep taking advantage of in practice and the guys have responded really well.”
This week can be viewed as a bounce back week for the Steelers. Following the 38-3 debacle vs. the Buffalo Bills in Week 5 the offense has to be feeling as if it can’t get worse. Pickett talked about how the week of preparation has been good, but he also knows there is only one cure-all for what ails this team right now. Winning.
“It’s been good. The only thing that’s going to fix this is winning, right?” said Pickett. “There’s not a pep talk. No one can come up here and give a great speech that’s going to turn this thing around. We’ve got to go produce on Sunday. There’s nothing I’m going to tell you here that’s going to fix it. We’ve got to go do it as players, as men.”
For Pickett, this will be his first home start as a member of the Steelers, and he is wanting to show he is more than capable of raising the bar offensively and doing what it takes to win. Coming off a 3-point output that won’t be difficult, but the Steelers offense will have to do enough to keep pace with Tom Brady and company or potentially lose their 5th game in a row.
A tall order, but one it seems this rookie quarterback is ready, and willing, to take on. Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the team as they press on throughout the 2022 regular season.