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‘He Played With Swagger:’ Diontae Johnson Says Kenny Pickett Has Respect Of Locker Room

Kenny Pickett came in on Sunday and turned around the Steelers’ offense, which struggled to put up six points in the first half. It’s expected that he’ll remain the starter. Diontae Johnson praised the way Pickett carries himself while talking to reporters today.

“He played with swagger. When he comes in the huddle, he demands you huddle up, come in, listen. Everybody respects him, basically. He’s a great player. He’s young, going to continue to learn and develop. It’s our job to make him look good and help him stay comfortable while he’s out there,” Johnson said via Steelers Live on Twitter.

One play that stands out when thinking about that swagger comment was when Pickett stood in and took a shot against Quinnen Williams, completed a pass to Pat Freiermuth and got up and started talking to Williams, one of the best defensive tackles in football, all with a smile on his face. It was a play you don’t often see from a rookie when facing pressure, but Pickett made it appear seamless.

As a rookie, having respect of the locker room is important. For the most part, a rookie quarterback doesn’t have anything on tape, and it’s harder to gain respect from veterans. Pickett has been able to command that respect, which going forward is going to be important, especially if the Steelers struggle through their difficult stretch over the next four weeks.

Johnson is right that the rest of the offense is going to have to help Pickett look good. You could argue that his first two interceptions weren’t his fault, although personally, I would put the second on him, even though it did go off the hands of Pat Freiermuth. If Pickett is going to throw up contested catch balls, guys like Johnson, Chase Claypool (who failed when given the chance at one yesterday) and George Pickens are going to have to make plays. The interception that was thrown to Claypool yesterday was underthrown, but Claypool is 6’4 and lost the jump ball to 5’8 Lamarcus Joyner. That’s not something that can continue to happen.

Johnson wasn’t targeted much and had just two catches for 11 yards, but he had a ball bounce off his hands that ended up being intercepted in the first half, too. Those sorts of mistakes cost the Steelers dearly, and now with a rookie quarterback who needs to continue to build confidence, those are the types of things that are going to come back and bite them.

I think it’s pretty clear that Pickett is going to be the guy going forward. Hopefully, his swagger and the respect he’s commanded from the rest of the locker room will help him have a successful rookie season and help build towards an even more successful future in Pittsburgh.

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