For 18 years, the Pittsburgh Steelers had a quarterback under center that made a name for himself by extending plays and finding wide receivers downfield.
Now, with Ben Roethlisberger off into retirement, the Steelers, General Manager Kevin Colbert, and head coach Mike Tomlin believe they’ve found that next franchise quarterback who can do similar things in the pocket in Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, whom they selected with the No. 20 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft Thursday night.
Speaking with reporters Thursday following the selection of Pickett, Colbert highlighted the Heisman Trophy finalist’s ability to extend plays and find receivers downfield, much like a young Roethlisberger once did years ago at Heinz Field.
“I think he continued to grow,” Colbert said, according to video via the Steelers’ YouTube page when asked what led to Pickett’s leap last year. “Coach talked about his mobility and you know, sure he can create plays, but he finds receivers when he’s creating, he’s not necessarily gonna scramble for 40 yards, 50 yards, but he may buy little time to his left and still be able to throw it back to his right.
“And there’s no panic in the young man and that’s really exciting,” Colbert added. “And again, I think he grew into…he was like a first year NFL player for Coach [Pat] Narduzzi and Coach [Mark] Whipple, just a mature player at that position. It obviously helped Pitt and we’re hopeful it helps us.”
Pickett certainly took a major step forward in 2021, going from a middle-round quarterback to a Heisman finalist and eventually a first-round draft pick. Though there’s some major concerns with Pickett overall, including his ball security, age, and physical limitations, there’s something to be said for the growth he showed last fall for the Panthers in the ACC, leading Pitt to an ACC Championship.
Add in the fact that he grew under Mark Whipple, who was Roethlisberger’s first QB coach in Pittsburgh, and the pick certainly makes sense.