If the game-winning 76-yard drive on Christmas Eve from the Pittsburgh Steelers and rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett showed anything, it showed that the rookie signal-caller has that “it” factor, that moxie that is so important at the quarterback position.
Trailing 10-6 with 2:55 left in the game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Pickett engineered the 10-play, 76-yard drive, completing 7-of-9 passes for 75 yards, firing a 14-yard touchdown up the seam to fellow rookie wide receiver George Pickens to beat the Raiders on the night the Steelers honored the late, great Franco Harris with his jersey retirement just one day after the 50th anniversary of the famous Immaculate Reception.
That moxie and overall poise shown on the final drive from Pickett was nothing new for the Steelers or even head coach Mike Tomlin. It’s a factor the longtime head coach saw up close and personal within the South Side facility during Pickett’s time with the Pitt Panthers and largely led to the Steelers pulling the trigger on drafting him with the 20th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
“I imagine he was born with it, man. I know that it’s not the first time I’ve seen it and I know it’s not the first time that people from western PA have seen it,” Tomlin stated to reporters Tuesday during his weekly media session, according to video via the Steelers YouTube page. “We’ve seen him do it next door. I think that’s why we had such a great deal of comfort in his intangible quality. And from a draft evaluation perspective, we were in close proximity to it. And when you’re in close proximity to it, it becomes less intangible. You can almost feel it. It is real.
“I don’t think any of us are surprised by it.”
That part of Pickett’s game certainly is real, and it permeates with his teammates, rubs off on them and gives them a boost of confidence in the weighty moments, much like it did on Saturday night against the Raiders in frigid temperatures.
Needing a touchdown to win the game, the Steelers’ young offense never blinked behind its rookie quarterback, marching right down the field. After the win, Pickett said there was no rah-rah speech or anything of the sort. Instead, it was just a general understanding of executing at a high level from all 11 players and going and winning the game.
Tomlin echoed those comments Tuesday, stating he didn’t see big eyes from the young players in the moment, instead seeing sure eyes that there was a belief they were going to go down and score a touchdown and win the game.
“When you’re in those weighty moments and you’re looking around at people, you like to feel their presence,” Tomlin added, according to video via the Steelers official YouTube page. “In a lot of instances, I did. I didn’t see big eyes, I saw sure eyes. I saw guys that understood what was at stake and guys that looked prepared to go do it. Now, you gotta go do it, But I liked the feel of the group leading up to it.”
To the Steelers’ credit, they went and did it. They didn’t blink and rose up in the weighty moment to deliver a much-needed victory on an important night in the Steel City.
That’s a huge positive moving forward for a young offense. Hopefully, they can continue to build off of that and start to put together more consistent games offensively.