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Steelers make a real attempt to find Ben Roethlisberger’s heir with the kid next door: Kenny Pickett

Is Kenny Pickett the answer at QB for the Steelers? It’s hard to say, but he became the Steelers’ first real attempt at finding Ben Roethlisberger’s heir apparent.

2021 ACC Championship - Pittsburgh v Wake Forest Photo by Logan Whitton/Getty Images

Looks like it was obviously obvious the whole time.

Months after he was the odds-on favorite to move his locker across the hall over at both Heinz Field and the South Side facilities, the Steelers made Kenny Pickett, the pride of the University of Pittsburgh, their most recent first-round selection when they picked him 20th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft on Thursday night.

Go hard or go home, isn’t that the saying? The Steelers were going to need to try and find Ben Roethlisberger’s replacement in a legitimate fashion sooner or later. Maybe it really will be Mitch Trubisky, the soon-to-be 28-year-old veteran they signed at the onset of free agency, when all is said and done. But, heading into this year’s draft, the chances were always fairly high that Pittsburgh would eventually need to start throwing first-round picks at the position—and not just signing former first-round picks.

Will Pickett be the answer? That remains to be seen, but the Steelers will have to keep asking the quarterback question until they are truly satisfied; the sooner they are, the quicker they can have a real chance of keeping up in the AFC North, a division that figures to be a gauntlet in the quarterback department for many years to come.

It really was fascinating how the tide seemed to shift with quarterbacks in the pre-draft process, starting with the Senior Bowl where Liberty star, Malik Willis, began to emerge as the leader in a supposedly weak quarterback class thanks to Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin’s apparent fascination with him.

But was it all a smokescreen with the Steelers and Willis?

We’ll likely never know the answer to that question, but the perception of this quarterback class being a weak one remained intact on Thursday, as Pickett turned out to be the only one selected in the first round. That’s right, when Pittsburgh’s turn on the clock commenced around 10:30 P.M. EST, the team had the pick of the litter at the quarterback spot.

Again, we’ll never know if the love for Willis was legit or not, but we do know that the Steelers wasted little time in getting Pickett’s name into the hands of the legendary Franco Harris so he could announce it to the world. Therefore, it’s hard to imagine there was any doubt as to who the Steelers truly desired, not just with quarterbacks but with the overall pool of draft prospects still floating around at pick number 20.

Yes, Pickett is a gamble, but what quarterback prospect truly isn’t? Sometimes you have to go for it and risk getting rejected. It’s like the saying goes: If you never ask the question, the answer will always be “no.”

It’s like what former Bills head coach, Marv Levy, once said about losing Super Bowls: “The best way to make sure you don’t lose a Super Bowl is to not go.”

The Steelers could have waited a year or two to try to find their next franchise quarterback—someone who really might be in high school right now—but they decided to address the problem as quickly as possible, and they did so with the college graduate next door.

You have to love the aggression.

Kenny Pickett, the Steelers' most-recent first-round pick.

I guess we should have seen it coming all along.