A top ten pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers over two decades ago, wide receiver Plaxico Burress had two stints with the team. In his two stints with the Steelers, he played with the team’s long-time quarterback Ben Roethlisberger under both former head coach Bill Cowher and current one Mike Tomlin. Burress also played for the New York Giants, where he won a Super Bowl with quarterback Eli Manning. Having appeared on Fox Sports’ The Herd with Colin Cowherd Friday, Burress was asked about Tomlin’s coaching style, and did not mince his words.
“Mike is the same way with everybody,” Burress said when asked whether Tomlin was tough on Roethlisberger. “He was tough, he was tough on me, he was tough on Ben. The motto in Pittsburgh is ‘the standard is the standard’. You can take that however you want to, but we want you to go out and play championship quality football, and Kenny Pickett just looks like a Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback. He makes plays with his legs outside of the pocket, he’s gonna manage the game and not lose it for you. At this point, for everybody like myself, Pickett is the best option.”
Burress’ first stint as a Steeler was in 2000-2004, where his tenure overlapped with Roethlisberger’s rookie season. Fans will remember him from his infamous hail mary catch in overtime against the Atlanta Falcons in 2002, the one that came one yard short. Burress’ second stint with the team came later in his career, as he played for the team in the 2012 and 2013 seasons. In doing so, he saw Tomlin’s coaching style with Roethlisberger first-hand.
Perhaps the first Tomlin saying that comes to mind, “the standard is the standard” is indeed how Tomlin approaches the team as the head coach. Tomlin’s relationship with Roethlisberger is not one that generated headlines, as many tumultuous relationships between coaches and quarterbacks have throughout the NFL. The duo were able to co-exist for 15 years without any real doubt of one or the other departing due to drama, a rare feat in the NFL. This is an underrated accomplishment for the duo, as a poor relationship with a head coach can stunt the development of a young quarterback, and can see a coach lose his job.
For Steelers’ rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, the standard will remain the standard. While his pro debut in the second half of the team’s Week 4 matchup saw him throw three interceptions, there is a lot to be excited for from his performance. As the team prepares for the Buffalo Bills in Week 5, Pickett is said to make his first start. In doing so, he will face a top tier defense on the road, and likely need to put up points early and often given the Bills’ high powered offense led by All-Pro quarterback Josh Allen.
Contrary to what Burress said, Pickett managing the game and playing not to lose may not be enough, at least this coming Sunday. With limited tape of him in the NFL, Pickett is an unknown and has an opportunity to be the X-factor that helps the underdog Steelers. Playing not to lose will likely not be enough in what may end up being a high scoring game, and Pickett showed his willingness to take shots from his first ever pass.
If one thing is for sure, however, it’s that Pickett indeed appears to be the best option.