Now more than a week removed from the first-round of the 2022 NFL Draft, it’s become evident that Kenny Pickett was always going to be the Pittsburgh Steelers’ target if he fell to No. 20 overall. But as general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin bounce around from interview to interview, they have given full explanations as to why that was the case.
Many have labeled Pickett as the most ‘pro-ready’, but it was more than just his play that was enticing. In an interview with former Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor on the Bleav in Steelers Show released on Friday morning, Tomlin gave some of his most honest thoughts to date about why Pickett was the perfect fit.
“His tape said enough, but we knew so much beyond the tape because of proximity,” said Tomlin. “It just made it that much more comfortable. I watched that guy sit on that patio and watch us work for three or four years. This dude loves football. He’s not a clock puncher. He’s always trying to get better.
“I watched him establish relationships with his teammates at Pitt. I thought it was cool a couple of years ago, I watched him forge this relationship with that safety tandem that they had, Paris Ford and (Damar Hamlin). All three of them, they brought the offense and the defense together and would watch us work.”
Pickett really did grow into his own over his five years in school. While he didn’t exactly break out to be the player he is now until the 2021 season, Tomlin saw that gradual development up close. That improvement came through Pickett’s work ethic and ability to build healthy bonds with his teammates, which is something the Steelers covet in any draft pick, but maybe more so when it came to scouting out the quarterback class. And while the Steelers reaped the rewards of sharing the same facility with the University of Pittsburgh, Pickett may have benefitted just as much watching the tendencies of future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
There was plenty of speculation that Pickett would never last until pick 20, but as the board started to reveal itself, what started as a bit of long shot at the beginning of the night turned into quiet optimism. And because of that, there was no hesitation when the Steelers were on the clock.
“We probably spent about 15 seconds on the clock,” Tomlin said with a laugh. “After New Orleans made that pick right before us, it was an easy decision for us. Like a lot of people, we didn’t think that we had a legitimate chance to get him. Particularly in recent years, the way the quarterback position has come off the board very early…So you had that level of anticipation based on recent circumstance that didn’t get us too fired up until we started getting around 15 or 16, then we started saying, ‘Hmmm’.”
Undoubtedly, the Steelers had to have Pickett head and shoulders above the rest of the class. That part is clear. But if Pickett turns into the player Tomlin believes he can be, he won’t have to chop it up with whomever the Pitt quarterback is—or any other quarterback for that matter for a long time.
Check out the full interview here: