Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett’s NFL debut was a mixed bag, as would be expected. He led the team to a comeback that the defense couldn’t finish off, scoring two rushing touchdowns, but also throwing two meaningful interceptions, one of which was decidedly worse than the other.
But I don’t think anybody really believes that head coach Mike Tomlin might go back and start Mitch Trubisky next week. This is Pickett’s job now, at least until he gets an opportunity to let us know who he is. And he showed a lot of the things that we believed were good about him.
One of those things is his willingness and ability to stand tall in the pocket and deliver a throw under duress, which he did with aplomb at the top of the fourth quarter. Facing a 3rd and 8, he delivered a strike to tight end Pat Freiermuth for 18 yards down to the two-yard line while taking a big hit from the Jets’ defense. He got up smiling at the defender.
“It’s not tough, man”, he said after the game when asked if it was difficult to stand in there and take those hits. “It’s in the job description. It is what it is. I’m a quarterback. That’s in my job. I told those guys, I’ll stand in there, I really don’t care. I know they’ll get it right. I know my job’s to stand in there and make throws”.
Of course, his opinion might change as his career progresses and the hits start accumulating, slowly becoming aware that NFL bodies are larger than what he faced in college. But to his credit, his willingness to stand and deliver through contact in the pocket is something that he exhibited during preseason play as well.
It is interesting that Tomlin did acknowledge this weekend talking with Stan Savran on the Mike Tomlin Show that standing in the pocket and delivering a throw rather than trying to flush out of the pocket was something Trubisky could do better.
He didn’t go better at that today, and after a poor first half, Tomlin made the decision to pull him and turn to Pickett, who showed more poise and self-confidence. Of course he made plenty of mistakes, but he has time to grow.
This was his first NFL action. Trubisky is a six-year NFL veteran with dozens of starts under his belt. There is no reason that he should need to be learning how to do anything related to his job at this point in his career.
So I say, stand and deliver, Kenny. We’ll be watching.