One thing I noticed about Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett as he navigated his way through his first three stages as an NFL player—rookie minicamp, OTAs and mandatory minicamp—was that I didn’t necessarily notice him all that much.
Obviously, I noticed Pickett while he conducted his many interviews with the media during the offseason workouts in shorts and a helmet, and there were certainly enough videos and photographs of him in action.
But that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about the “wow” factor, as in “Kenny Pickett wows coaches at mandatory minicamp.” Or, how about, “Kenny Pickett turning heads at OTAs.”
Should Steelers fans expect more in the way of tantalizing headlines when it comes to Pickett, the most-recent first-round draft pick and a player who is in line to take the place of Ben Roethlisberger sooner rather than later?
No, at least not right now. When it comes to news involving Pickett at this point of the offseason, perhaps it’s fitting that we’ve now entered the quietest part of the year. Why? Because no news is good news when it comes to your rookie quarterback’s first go-around with spring-time football in shorts.
The last thing you’d want to hear or read about Pickett is that he looked like a deer in headlights at OTAs or that he had a hard time holding onto the football at mandatory minicamp.
All we can assume right now about Pickett is that he’s absorbing everything that he can from his coaches, his teammates and, heck, maybe even Mitch Trubisky and/or Mason Rudolph (not to get too political by bringing up the mentor topic).
What you really want to pay attention to is how Pickett looks once training camp begins on July 26. How is he at handling live defenses? How is he at handling scrimmages? Is he able to command the huddle in those situations?
Maybe my memory is a bit fuzzy, but when I think back 18 years to Ben Roethlisberger’s first spring and summer, I don’t recall the rookie turning a lot of heads. It was a different circumstance, of course; everyone rightly assumed that Tommy Maddox, the team’s veteran starter for most of the previous two seasons, would be the guy Roethlisberger would sit and learn behind for one year.
It wasn’t until Roethlisberger was thrust into the lineup in Week 2 due to injury that people began to see the kind of talent he possessed.
Even then, it took some time for then-head coach Bill Cowher to take the shackles off of his rookie—the playbook was quite limited early on.
There will be plenty of time for Pickett to turn some heads once training camp ramps up this summer. If he does that, maybe he’ll do Roethlisberger one better by being named the starter in Week 1.
If not? That wouldn’t be the end of the world, either, especially if reporters aren’t using metaphors about deer and headlights to describe his demeanor at St. Vincent College.