Five years ago, Kenny Pickett was a three-star quarterback out of New Jersey who de-committed from Temple and eventually committed to the Pittsburgh Panthers and then offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
Five years later, Pickett and Canada are reunited once again, as Pickett is now a Pittsburgh Steeler after being selected 20th overall in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft Thursday night.
Though Pickett never truly got a chance to play in Canada’s system after the former Panthers’ OC bolted to Baton Rouge to take over the LSU offense, the New Jersey native was drawn to the diversity of Canada’s system all those years ago.
Now, still trying to wrap his mind around becoming a Pittsburgh Steeler, Pickett stated he’s looking forward to getting a chance to play for Canada again and experience the diversity in his system, which plays to Pickett’s physical tools overall.
“Going back to when I was recruited, it’s just the diversity of it,” Pickett said regarding what he likes about Canada’s system, according to the official transcript of the interview provided by the team. “He has the quarterback in the picket, he gets the guys on the move. So, I feel that’s kind of underrated in my game. I feel I do a really good job of getting outside the picket and making plays, and he does that with his play design naturally.
“So, I feel like I do all the great things that he wants, and that’s why he recruited me for his offense, that’s why I feel like I’m in Pittsburgh now again. I can’t wait to get back into it. Really just kind of obsess over the playbook and just kind of everything I do will be learning that playbook and being a Pittsburgh Steeler, so I can’t wait to get there tomorrow.”
The familiarity with the playbook — to an extent — should help Pickett in his transition into the Steelers’ facility. Though he never truly ran a Canada-called system, there were parts of it that were very similar early in his career following Canada’s departure for LSU as then-Pitt OC Shawn Watson kept some similar concepts to help Pickett along as a first and second-year starter.
The NFL is a different ballgame though, so there will be a learning curve for Pickett. Good news is he fits really well into what Canada wants from under center, which is a QB that can move around, buy time with his legs, throw on the run and even add in some designed runs overall.
How well Pickett transitions to the NFL ranks remains to be seen, but it’s a huge positive that he’s landing in a system that he’s familiar with and fits into stylistically.