The Kenny Pickett who’s led touchdown drives in two-minute offensive work in each of the past two weeks is not the same Kenny Pickett who first stepped onto Chuck Noll Field at Saint Vincent College. Not the same Kenny Pickett who is now back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex gearing up for games that matter now.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie first-round pick has already come a long way from his first training camp practices until now, and when I say that, I’m speaking specifically about his individual performance and not the other intangible qualities that he has displayed throughout his time here, which is why others have gravitated toward him. But he’s certainly not surprised by his own growth. He knows how this works.
“The more and more you play, the more comfortable you get. That’s just kind of how it goes”, he told reporters after Saturday’s game, via the team’s website. “The more reps I get, the better I feel in the system. I’m just gonna keep building on it, watch the film this week, and get ready to go on Sunday”.
Sunday, of course, is when the Steelers play their final preseason game; he’s not talking about starting games in the regular season. In fact, he’s very much trying not to talk about that even though reporters keep asking him, because he has no answer for when he will be the starter.
All he can do for now is to keep working, keep taking the coaching and applying it onto the practice field, and at least for one final time, in the preseason. It remains to be seen just what kind of workload is in store for him for the season finale, but he’s shown in the past two weeks that he’ll be prepared for it.
Pickett has already shown the ability to adapt to the situation as it evolves, whether that’s within a drive or within a play. A play breaking down doesn’t send him into a panic and cause him to make mistakes. He’s shown poise no matter the circumstances, including in the ‘weighty downs’ head coach Mike Tomlin has talked about.
“Coach does a great job of putting us in those situations, and I’m really glad to have that experience in practice against our defense”, he said, referring to the Steelers’ situational work, such as the ‘seven shots’ drill. “I think it really helped and it showed out there, getting a live rep out in the game”.
That came in handy on two of his three touchdowns, including this past Saturday night’s, even if it wasn’t a goal-line situation, or even goal-to-go, but rather from the 11. It probably helps that he’s also used to playing multiple downs from the same spot, since he had to throw a touchdown twice after the first was negated by offsetting penalties.