Kenny Pickett has been around Mike Tomlin for years, but only coached by him for months. Still, the two have formed a good relationship, one that brings out the competitive nature in each of them. That’s how Pickett described things during a Tuesday appearance on the Pat McAfee Show.
“He is great, man,” Pickett told the show. “He’s everything you can expect. He coaches you hard. Same with Coach Canada. He actually recruited me to Pitt and I never got a chance to play for him. Now I can finally get that opportunity to play for him. But it’s been great. [Tomlin] is a great shit talker, how we go back and forth. He asks us if we’re ever gonna throw the ball down the field. I’m like, ‘man, you’re playing all this zone. Play some man to man then we’ll try and put it over your head.'”
Downfield passes would be a welcome sight for the Steelers’ offense in 2022 after being one of the most dink-and-dunk units in the league the past two years in the twilight of Ben Roethlisberger’s career. Pittsburgh has weapons who can win vertically. Chase Claypool if he bounces back, rookie George Pickens, and Diontae Johnson have shown to be capable of winning over the top. Fourth-round rookie Calvin Austin also brings serious track speed to the offense, turning in a 4.32 at this year’s Combine.
Tomlin and Pickett’s back-and-forth is all good-natured and part of how each guy seems to be wired. Pickett’s mentality is especially important. Ben Roethlisberger was known as the biggest competitor in the locker room who wanted to win at anything. Garbage can basketball, ping pong, and of course, football. Pickett has shown a similar mindset and did plenty of winning last season at Pitt, leading the Panthers to their first 11-win season since 1981. Pickett left Pitt holding virtually every passing record, #1 in completions, attempts, passing yards, passing touchdowns, and the second-highest completion percentage of any quarterback with at least 500 attempts.
“I’m excited to get to camp and continue to compete with him and the defense. It’s just a good competitive atmosphere, man. Everyone’s going at it every single day. So it’s the kind of way it’s really what you want it.”
Pittsburgh enters the year with one of football’s youngest offenses and competition across all units. Offensive linemen trying to secure position and prove they can play in Pittsburgh, a receiver room that could go in different directions, running backs fighting for action behind Najee Harris, and most importantly, who the team’s starting QB will be. Pickett will battle Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph, though Trubisky or Pickett is most likely to win the job. The battle begins less than one month from now when the Steelers report to camp. We’ll keep you updated with a daily log as to how each player performs.