After a slow first half start by quarterback Mitchell Trubisky for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Head coach Mike Tomlin pulled the plug, benching him for rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett. In doing so, Tomlin hoped to create a spark for the team. In his postgame press conference, Pickett commented on whether he sensed that his debut created a spark for the team.
“I just played with an edge,” Pickett said in his postgame press conference when asked about giving the team a spark. “That was something I wanted to bring to the table, I do not like to lose, this is not a good feeling. I don’t want it to be a familiar feeling, so I definitely want to get back out there and get a victory and get us back on track.”
Pickett’s college career, and his merit as a first-round pick, was largely defined by his break out 2021 senior season. In that final season, Pickett indeed did not like to lose, leading Pitt to an 11-2 record, which was their best since 1976. In drafting Pickett, it was the Steelers’ hope that this winning mentality translates to the NFL.
The rookie quarterback’s debut was up and down, he showed poise and willingness to stretch the field and take shots. Pickett also targeted rookie receiver George Pickens at a higher rate, which led to his first 100-yard game. One play that highlighted his poise was a third down conversion to tight end Pat Freiermuth, a pass he completed while taking a hit.
Pickett’s first pass was a deep one to receiver Chase Claypool, which wound up in an interception. While this plays outcome was not favorable, Pickett displayed his willingness to play on the edge nonetheless, which he expanded on in the post game press conference.
“I think there’s a little bit of an edge to me,” Pickett continued. “I want that to rub off on everybody, I want us to have an attitude on the field. I’m excited to get back to work, and excited to get back on track.”
Pickett’s debut indeed rubbed off on the rest of the team, as the Steelers rallied to score 14 unanswered points with his two rushing touchdowns. While Pickett ended the game with several costly turnovers, it’s hard to ask for a better approach to the post-game conference than his.
As he prepares for the Buffalo Bills in Week 5 on the road as the presumed starter, Pickett must turn the page quickly. On paper, the matchup in Buffalo will be a challenge for the Steelers, and they will need every bit of what Pickett has to have a chance at the upset.