The long wait is over, and we now know whom the Pittsburgh Steelers believe is their next franchise quarterback—unambiguously, because they had their pick of any quarterback in this class— and they chose the closest one at hand, Pitt’s Kenny Pickett. But outside of familiarity, that didn’t play much of a role in their decision, general manager Kevin Colbert said—and Pickett’s got to understand that.
“Kenny’s a very mature young man that knows how to handle this media”, Colbert said on Steelers Nation Radio after speaking to the local reporters following their first-round selection. “But what we talked to him about was, ‘Kenny, it’ll be different. You’re not gonna be Kenny Pickett, Pitt quarterback; you’re gonna be Kenny Pickett, Steeler quarterback’”.
One can help but flash back to four decades ago when the Steelers passed on another Pitt quarterback, Dan Marino, who went on to have a solid career with the Miami Dolphins instead, one of the team’s biggest regrets. Speaking to the media, Colbert acknowledged that they might have a tendency to scrutinize Pitt players more just because of their familiarity. But it goes both ways, for the player staying in Pittsburgh, as well.
“Again, you’re familiar with it, but you’re really gonna have to learn a new dynamic”, Colbert said about staying in Pittsburgh yet going from the Panthers in college to the Steelers in the NFL. “Not only with the town and the media, but with your teammates, because those guys down in the locker room, honestly, they’re not gonna care that it’s Kenny Pickett from Pitt”.
Truthfully, they won’t, especially anybody coming in now, who were in Pittsburgh to watch him play. Pickett is the only Pitt player on the Steelers’ roster right now. They have a couple of Penn State alumni in Pat Freiermuth and Marcus Allen. But T.J. Watt’s from Wisconsin. Minkah Fitzpatrick’s from Alabama. Chase Claypool is a Canadian who played for Notre Dame. Najee Harris is a West Coast kid who played at Alabama. Diontae Johnson came out of Toledo.
They don’t care that he was the Panthers’ quarterback. At least, not much.
“What we tell any young player coming in is, ‘look, until you prove to the vets that you can help them win, they’re gonna make you prove it, and they’re gonna want you to prove it’”, Colbert said. “I mean, they’ll do it in a proper manner, but I think he’s ready for that”.
Many Steelers fans have, let’s say, mixed feelings on the team’s quarterback decision—both the position and the player—but they’ve made their bed, and now we’ll all be laying in it, whether for four or five years, or for 20.
What kind of quality sleep we’ll be getting remains to be seen. But at least Pickett will be able to sleep in his own bed. And the commute to his press conference tomorrow shouldn’t be too bad. Just don’t expect Mike Tomlin to foot the gas bill.