Drafting a quarterback in the first round and the anticipation of waiting to see him succeed—or whether or not the succeeds—pretty much go hand-in-hand. There isn’t a single thing more pivotal you can do to decide the fate of your team than drafting a quarterback in the first round, so it carries quite a bit of weight to it.
Even with the advancements of the game, however, quarterbacks still don’t come into the NFL ready to hit the ground running. And Pittsburgh Steelers fans haven’t had to see the early growing pains of a ‘future franchise quarterback’ in nearly two decades, when they drafted Ben Roethlisberger 11th overall in 2004.
Now fans have Kenny Pickett to study over, and his first few training camp practices haven’t been all that pretty. He knows it as well as anybody. He knew it after two practices, and he spoke about it to reporters prior to yesterday’s activities.
“Obviously, two days in, you want to be perfect, but you’re never gonna be”, he said of his rocky early showings at Saint Vincent College. “I’m learning the system, and [it’s] the first time that I’m throwing with a lot of these guys consistently, so it’s not gonna be perfect the first couple days, but we’ll keep getting better as it goes”.
With Roethlisberger having retired this offseason, the Steelers signed veteran Mitch Trubisky in free agency before drafting Pickett. They also retained Mason Rudolph, a former third-round pick of their own, now in his fifth season, and they had former first-round pick Dwayne Haskins on the roster before he passed away under tragic circumstances.
But the instant you make the decision to pull the trigger on a quarterback in the first round, you’re making a commitment for the near future, unless you’re the Arizona Cardinals. The Steelers are the Steelers, and they will give Pickett every chance to succeed. And nobody should be overreacting to three days of training camp, anyway, no matter how many interceptions are thrown.
“I’ve gotta learn from it and move on, really”, Pickett said of the balls that he has tossed to the defense thus far, entering yesterday’s practice. “Both plays I can learn from, and I did. I took what I needed from it, and it’s done with. There’s a lot of throws left in camp, obviously. We’re only in day three now”.
Pickett and the Steelers will be back on the field this afternoon for one more day before a break on Sunday. It will likely be a good time for both the rookie and the fans—and the media—to pause, to take a breather, and to simply regain some perspective about where we are, not just at this point in the season, but at this point in Pickett’s career. As Chase Claypool recently said while complimenting his professionalism, “he’s not even a rookie yet”.