That’s exactly what Pittsburgh Steelers rookie first-round quarterback Kenny Pickett has shown since the Week 9 bye week as the starting quarterback for the black and gold.
He’s avoided the costly turnovers — for the most part, has utilized the middle of the field more and is really starting to get into an overall groove as the leader of a young Steelers offense.
That steady progression was again on display Saturday night on Christmas Eve against the Las Vegas Raiders at Acrisure Stadium in a game that required a late-game comeback from the rookie signal caller to win the game. Though the final numbers weren’t pretty (26-of-39, 244 yards, one touchdown, one interception), he was calm, cool an collected when it mattered most.
On the second-to-last drive of the game, the rookie quarterback completed 7-of-9 passes for 75 yards and the game-winning 14-yard strike to fellow rookie George Pickens down the middle, beanie two Raiders defenders for the win.
That performance earned Pickett the No. 20 spot on the latest NFL.com QB Index rankings from Around the NFL writer Marc Sessler. The ranking at No. 20 overall is the highest Pickett has been all season in the popular QB Index, another sign of steady progression from the former Pitt Panthers star.
“There’s a calm to Pickett’s game. We saw it Saturday night in an emotionally charged 13-10 downing of the Raiders,” Sessler writes regarding Pickett’s ranking. “Trailing 10-6 with 2:55 on the clock, Pickett ground out a 10-play, 76-yard touchdown march during which he hit seven of nine passes for 75 yards, capped by his 14-yard go-ahead dart to George Pickens. The other yard on that drive? Pickett blasting for the first on fourth-and-1 from the Vegas 15.
“Fighting for the memory of Franco Harris and The Immaculate Reception, Pittsburgh’s newbie starter simply got it done.”
Sessler’s last line really summed up the Steelers rookie quarterback’s performance quite well. It wasn’t pretty, it certainly had its fair share of serious ups and downs throughout the game, and it had its fair share of struggles to execute overall, but in the end the first-round pick got it done when it mattered most.
Really, that’s all that matters. He won an important game with a great scoring drive in the two-minute drill and helped keep the Steelers’ slim playoff hopes alive.