There’s not much to laugh and smile about coming out of a 38-3 beating, but the Pittsburgh Steelers have to have something to look forward to. That’s what a rookie quarterback is good for, especially if he doesn’t look terrible in his first game action.
Even though his unit put up a measly three points on Sunday, first-round pick Kenny Pickett’s performance in the game has generally been rated positively. He completed 34 passes on 52 attempts for 327 yards. Although he did not throw nor rush for a touchdown, and did have one interception, he was able to get the offense to move the ball more often than not, reaching field goal range on six of 11 drives.
And so, perhaps, he is the answer to the question that everybody has been asking this season: what is the Steelers’ offensive identity? Chase Claypool wasn’t sure if they had one. New starting center has previously talked about the importance of establishing one. Can the young quarterback be that identity?
Or as head coach Mike Tomlin was asked yesterday during his pre-game press conference, can Pickett be a vocal point to rally around for the offense? “Seemingly so, certainly”, he responded, via the team’s website. “I think that’s why we put him in at the position. Certainly”.
There was nothing in his game that suggested otherwise. He very much appears to have the support and belief from his teammates that any leader needs. And we’re not just talking about his offensive linemen cleaning somebody’s clock on his behalf.
Pickett is here for one reason: to be the driving force behind returning this Steelers team to Super Bowl winners. Who knows how long that will take, or if it ever will take, but that’s the mission statement. That’s always the statement when a team drafts a quarterback in the first round.
The results of those endeavors vary wildly, as one would expect, but it’s too early to say in which direction Pickett will go. What we do know is that his teammates will follow him, and that’s because he’s shown the willingness to do whatever is required of him in an attempt to achieve victory (no matter how short they fall).
“I expect him to do exactly just that. To do what’s required to win and put us in position to win”, Tomlin said when a reporter asked him if he felt that Pickett had the kind of win-or-else makeup. “That’s why we’re playing him at quarterback”.
He didn’t start the season in the lineup, as you know. Mitch Trubisky was the starter for the first four games, but Tomlin benched him at halftime in that fourth game. Pickett came in and rallied the team with two touchdown drives, giving them a late lead before the defense blew it.
Everybody blew on Sunday, or at least everybody but a small handful of players. Still, enough of them blew that it led to the team’s largest blowout in decades. But that one day, Pickett’s first start, won’t dictate where he, and the team, go from here.