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Mike Tomlin Calls Kenny Pickett’s Response To Shaq Lawson Hit ‘Appropriate’

The most notable moment in Kenny Pickett’s first career start yesterday afternoon may well have not even been a play. At least that may go down as how many interpret it. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie quarterback was flagged after shoving Buffalo Bills pass rusher Shaq Lawson following what amounted to a thoroughly meaningless play in every sense.

It was 38-3 by then, on 4th and 14 (admittedly on Buffalo’s 26-yard line) with 1:07 to play. Nobody in their right mind could have possibly conceived of a scenario in which the result of the game wasn’t already in hand. Yet Lawson went hard at the rookie, tackling him at the knee while throwing away the fourth-down ball that would result in a turnover on downs.

Pickett rightfully took exception, explaining after the game that from his perspective, he felt like he was going after his knee after the throw. You could certainly make that argument. While both players were still on their knees, the quarterback turned to Lawson and shoved them. As they got to their feet, it attracted players from both teams and caused a minor scuffle.

Asked about the play after the game and his response, head coach Mike Tomlin would only describe his quarterback’s actions as “Appropriate”. While it drew a penalty and will perhaps earn Pickett a fine later this week, one can certainly understand.

This isn’t the first time a Steelers quarterback has taken umbrage to an overly aggressive pass rusher at the end of a meaningless lopsided loss. Pickett’s current teammate, Mason Rudolph, might remember a little something from a few years ago involving Cleveland Browns rusher Myles Garrett. That scrum ended a little differently, however.

While one might think not to make too much of a big deal of what was clearly an emotional response at the end of a very frustrating and disappointing day, it is reflective of what sort of character Pickett is said to have exemplified.

His shoving Lawson wasn’t simply frustration. It was a response that shows that he acknowledges he belongs. He is entitled to respond that way when a veteran defender comes at him that way, especially in that situation, so meaningless as it was.

It’s going to get flagged every time, but not all penalties are created equally, and certainly at that point it was well past the point of making even the slightest of differences. The fact is that he stood up for himself, and he did so instinctually. It wasn’t to show anybody anything. It was just his reaction, and as Tomlin said, it was, in that moment, appropriate.

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