Buccaneers OC Byron Leftwich Praises Kenny Pickett: ‘He Can Really Play’

While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get the “luxury” of facing a rookie quarterback making only his second career start, Byron Leftwich isn’t taking anything for granted. The former Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback and current offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Leftwich spoke about Pickett during a Thursday press conference via the team’s YouTube channel.

“He can really play,” Leftwich told reporters and followed up by adding, “This kid just from an evaluation standpoint look pretty good on tape to me.”

Pickett made his debut in Week 4, replacing Mitch Trubisky at halftime against the New York Jets. He provided a much-needed jolt to the offense, putting up 14 points in the second half, though Pittsburgh collapsed at the end and lost 24-20. Thrown into the fire for his first start last week, Pickett battled and threw a whopping 52 passes, surpassing that total just once over his college career. Offensive production was poor, just three points, but Pickett played better than the box score indicates, hurt by dropped passes and opportunistic moments receivers couldn’t finish.

Things won’t be much easier against a talented Buccaneers’ secondary. As Bowles pointed out, rookies take their lumps but even the great ones had to start somewhere.

“This is as hard of a job as you can be in…you gotta be a rookie at some point. At some point [Tom Brady] was a rookie, at some point [Blaine Gabbert] was a rookie, everybody who has played this position has been a rookie. That doesn’t mean you can’t have success. A lot of rookies come in and have success.”

Leftwich himself started 13 games as a rookie, the seventh overall pick of the 2002 draft. He went 5-8 as a starter and threw more interceptions (16) than touchdowns (14), but enjoyed a long NFL career, though much of it came as a backup, including during his time in Pittsburgh.

Being a rookie quarterback no longer means being doomed out of the gate. There’s been plenty of success stories over the years, though Pickett faces a tough set of circumstances. As Dave Bryan wrote earlier today, Bowles’ defenses have given rookies fits, and the Steelers’ offense, players or scheme, has done its quarterbacks no favors. If Pickett pulls off the win, it’ll be the biggest home upset in Steelers’ history. A victory would also give Pittsburgh desperately-needed life to get back into the playoff hunt. That sure wouldn’t be a bad way to endear yourself to the home crowd.

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