Steelers News

Kenny Pickett’s Running Ability ‘Opens Up’ The Offense, Najee Harris Says

Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett has now played in six games as a rookie, starting five. He has recorded 27 rushing attempts now for 149 yards with three touchdowns. Outside of the handful of sneaks at the goal line and in short-yardage situations, they have not been by design, but they remain an important element of the team’s identity in the run game—perhaps increasingly so.

They have seen that increasing nearly on a weekly basis, consistently accounting for a bit more rushing yardage than the week before, minus his first start. His last two games in particular have highlighted his athleticism, rushing a combined 15 times for 88 yards and a score. He had 51 yards and a touchdown on eight rushes on Sunday.

“Kenny did good, man. It was a big game for him, too”, second-year running back Najee Harris told reporters after Sunday’s game, via Amanda Godsey of the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat. “Him passing and running, it actually opens up a lot too when you see a mobile quarterback. It helps out the running backs and the o-line. Now you can do a lot more and open up packages”.

Head coach Mike Tomlin has been talking about quarterback mobility being an essential element of the future of the game for something like a decade now, and it seemed like a given that whatever quarterback he opted for as the successor to Ben Roethlisberger was going to have that quality.

Pickett is not going to be mistaken for Lamar Jackson or even Josh Allen any time soon, but the Steelers know that there is even more he can do with his legs than he has up to this point. We are already beginning to see it in the past couple of games.

No play is designed as a scramble, but there will always be times in which a scramble is the smartest decision for the way a particular play unfolds—provided that you have a quarterback who has the athletic ability to take advantage of the opportunity.

They do now with Pickett, who does have speed—even when he’s not running with the ball in his hands himself. He nearly hit 20 miles per hour on Harris’ 36-yard run in the first half when he was running down the field looking for somebody to block. The Pickler’s got wheels.

“There were sometimes we got covered up”, Pickett said after the game about his season-high eight rushing attempts via the team’s website. “The O-line did a great job. If I see a seam, I feel like I can utilize my legs to move the chains and get positive yardage. I think it’s something I can continue to do and build on top of today”.

The Steelers had not had a quarterback rush for 50 or more yards in a game since Roethlisberger had 55 rushing yards 12 years ago against the Oakland Raiders. It was the only game of his career in which he rushed for 50-plus yards. Kordell Stewart accounts for 18 of the 29 games on record since at least 1950, according to Pro Football Reference.

Terry Bradshaw did it twice, for those wondering, including a 99-yard rushing game against the New Orleans Saints, also in November, in 1974.

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