Steelers News

‘Not The First Time I’ve Seen It’, Tomlin Says Of Pickett’s Killer Instinct In The Clutch

Did you know that Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett is already up to three career game-winning drives? He has 10 starts (nine meaningful ones in terms of playing time; eight if you only count games he finished) and out of those, he’s won the game in the fourth quarter.

Since 2013, only Baker Mayfield and Dak Prescott have had more game-winning drives as rookies. In fact, only nine rookies in total since 2000 have had more, and all of them started at least 13 games, most playing 16. That number does include Ben Roethlisberger, who have five game-winning drives in 13 starts in 2004. But none of this surprises this Steelers team that made him their first-round pick.

“I imagine he was born with it,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said yesterday about Pickett’s latest game-winning drive on Christmas Eve and his clutch instinct, via the team’s website. “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. We’ve seen him do it next door.”

He refers to Pickett’s time with the Pittsburgh Panthers during his college career, who also plays inside of Acrisure Stadium as the Steelers do and who train right next door. They got plenty of inside evaluative experience with their future franchise hopeful so handily nearby.

“I think that’s why we have such a great deal of comfort in his intangible quality from a draft-evaluation perspective,” Tomlin insisted. “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.”

Tomlin loves to talk intangibles, especially when it’s good to have intangibles, but making intangibles tangible can be equally exciting. It’s one thing to say that somebody has ‘the clutch gene’, but it’s another to break it down and actually figure out what that means and what it looks like on the field.

The Steelers understand how Pickett operates and how he handles pressure. They also understand that he’s continuing to grow as he adjusts to the NFL level and that he’s only going to get better as time goes on. It was a story when he got his first game-winning drive, but one easily expects that there will be many more to come.

Roethlisberger, his predecessor, retired after the 2021 season after posting a career-high seven game-winning drives in a year in which the team only won nine games. He ended his career with 53 of them in total, the fourth-most in NFL history behind only Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees.

Those are some lofty standards to live up to, but he certainly delivered an incredible moment in the final minute of Saturday night’s game with a 14-yard go-ahead touchdown pass to fellow wide receiver George Pickens to secure a Steelers victory in honor of the late, great Franco Harris. It was a signature moment—and perhaps a sign of things to come.

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