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Diontae Johnson: Kenny Pickett ‘Takes Charge’ Of The Huddle When He’s In The Game

Kenny Pickett has seen action in two preseason games thus far for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he’s looked good in both of them. Many, as I’ve recently learned, would use words like stellar and spectacular, and it’s perceived as blasphemy not to, even while offering a compliment.

Whatever adjective you might choose to assign to his performance, it would inevitably be a positive one if you have a set of eyes, basic knowledge of the game, and a lack of bias. The Pittsburgh product has simply looked like an NFL quarterback, at least in terms of what has been asked of him within the framework of the offense thus far. But perhaps most impressive has been the manner in which he has handled himself on the field.

His teammates aren’t surprised by it, as they told reporters on Saturday in the locker room, because they’ve already grown used to seeing it. “He showed he could do it the first preseason game. He showed poise”, wide receiver Diontae Johnson said. “He showed that he was comfortable in the pocket. He took a few hits, but he was able to bounce back and get us going”.

Johnson, entering his fourth season, is going to be Pickett’s number one receiver whenever the rookie enters the starting lineup. He caught Pickett’s first pass on the team’s touchdown drive at the end of the first half for 17 yards, nearly breaking it. Then he caught what would have been a touchdown pass if it were not negated by a penalty.

The rookie only got about 10 snaps in the game, when you include plays negated by penalty, but that was enough for his teammates to get a feel for who he is. “Everybody respects him in the huddle, so whenever he comes in the huddle, he takes charge”, Johnson said. “I’ve seen that early throughout training camp as well. Like I said, everybody’s comfortable with him in there”.

That might be read as typical talk of just any quarterback if the physical evidence were not so readily apparent on tape. Pickett does take charge of the huddle. He displays those innate qualities that have grown to be synonymous with the position, an ability to lead men and to get the best out of them.

That comes first, and then comes proving that you can hold your end of the bargain. He’s doing that, too. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Johnson specifically mentioned Pickett being willing and able to stand in the pocket and take a hit in order to make a throw, something that he did more than once on Saturday night despite only attempting a handful of passes.

I don’t know when he’s going to start. I do know that when he does, the offense is going to be fully invested in his success, not simply because he’s the shiny new first-round pick, but because they see believe in him, and that’s all you can ask for right now.

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