Teams starting rookie quarterbacks generally have bigger problems. Typically, if you’re in a position to draft a player who can start right away at that position, then you’re most likely at least a year or two away from being in contention because you performed poorly enough to earn a high draft pick.
But teams still win games with rookies at the helm. The Dallas Cowboys won 13 games with Dak Prescott as a rookie in 2016, tied for the all-time rookie record in wins with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ own Ben Roethlisberger. Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, and Matt Ryan all won 11. Mac Jones won 10 just a couple years ago.
There are plenty of others, but you get the point. The point is, it’s still an accomplishment to beat a good starter, whether he’s a rookie or not. And for Tom Brady to have played now 322 games and only been defeated by a rookie quarterback five times is noteworthy.
Well, it was five times. Yesterday’s win over the Steelers made it six. The Steelers, with Roethlisberger in 2004, were the first team starting a rookie at quarterback to ever beat him. And the Steelers, with Kenny Pickett in 2022, are likely to be the last.
Brady’s teams also lost to rookies Mark Sanchez (2009), Colt McCoy (2010), Wilson (2012), and Geno Smith (2013), a list that includes two division-rival New York Jets victories, but his career at least as it concerns being beat by rookies will likely be bookmarked by losses in Pittsburgh.
Brady was all of 27 years old back in 2004 when a 6-0 New England Patriots team strolled into town. He lost, 34-20, Roethlisberger throwing a pair of first-quarter touchdowns to wide receiver Plaxico Burress to build a 21-3 lead. Brady would never get to within more than two touchdowns after that.
It wasn’t quite easy in Pickett’s win over Brady, and, indeed, he didn’t even score enough points at the end of the day to record the win on his own, since he left the game in the middle of the third quarter after suffering a concussion, but he exited the game with the lead (and would have been credited with the win as the starter of record, either way).
For his part, Pickett only went 11 for 18 passing for 67 yards, but he did complete his first touchdown pass, a six-yard score to running back Najee Harris. He also led two field goal drives from Chris Boswell, including a 55-yarder that doinked off the crossbar.
It was 13-12 when he was injured on the first play of a drive after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers added a field goal to pull within one. He completed that pass to Diontae Johnson for 23 yards, but the play was negated by a holding penalty on Kevin Dotson.
Backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky obviously deserves a tremendous amount of credit for pulling the Steelers across the finish line, adding the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter (although they never trailed) and executing a four-minute offense to run out the clock, but this was Pickett’s first career win.
And almost undoubtedly Brady’s last against a rookie, should he retire after this season, as most believe he will. The Atlanta Falcons is the only remaining team that could realistically put a rookie into the starting lineup later this season, with Desmond Ridder backing up Marcus Mariota. Brock Purdy is currently the backup to Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco as the only other quarterback on the roster, but who knows if they would even allow him to start.