Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is no stranger to the deep-ball interception. The now-retired future Hall of Famer took pride in the label of gunslinger, which he happily applied to himself, and that included taking shots down the field in the hopes of giving his guy a chance to make plays.
And so, while he was not without reservations with what he saw from rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett from Sunday afternoon, he approached his turnovers with a certain level of understanding, and especially so on the ball to Pat Freiermuth, which even Pickett said after the game was a mistake.
“The last interception, Roethlisberger said on his Footbahlin podcast, “he even said, he goes, ‘I kind of tried to throw it out there to Pat’. And you’re giving Pat a chance. Pat’s a playmaker. And he said, ‘I probably should’ve thrown it away’”.
“And of course it’s easy to say that now! If he completes it, you’d have been like, ‘Ah, great play!’”, he continued. “We’ve all had those. Anybody who’s played quarterback for any amount of time will have those times where you’re like, ‘Ah, I should have. Ah, I wish I would have’”.
Roethlisberger has certainly had his fair share of those. Although the target to Freiermuth wasn’t a deep pass, it was an example of a play where a quarterback is willing to trust in his playmakers and give them an opportunity to make a play, albeit hoping to put it in a spot where either the play is made by your guy or it’s not made at all.
“But you know what? You can’t live in those fears”, he stressed. “You’ve got to go play the game and go out there. And it looks bad, but at the end of the day, if he plays this game for a long time, he’s gonna have more opportunities to go both ways: to throw it away or to complete that ball”.
Pickett has exactly 30 minutes of NFL experience after head coach Mike Tomlin inserted him into Sunday’s game, the fourth of the regular season, after halftime. He has attempted 13 total passes in his career, and yes, three of them were intercepted, but we hardly know the story his future will tell just yet.
Part of being an NFL quarterback is growing and learning from prior experience. We saw the decision and the throw that he made in that particular situation in his first game, one in which he had no reasonable expectation of playing. It will be far more telling to see what he does the next time in that situation. And even more telling still when we have a significant sample size of plays, to understand his demeanor as well as his level of execution in those situations. The latter will, or should, help dictate the former.