Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett now has ten starts to his name in the NFL. He has a 5-5 record, with five touchdowns and nine interceptions. As he gains more experience, his voice on offensive play calling is increasingly valuable. When asked about this during a Wednesday press conference on the team’s website, Pickett stated that his input is indeed heard.
“I mean, that’s always been there for us,” Pickett said when asked if he has more latitude with changing play calling. “And I have input when we call timeout, come to the sideline, and the coach will ask me what I like or what I feel. We’ll come together, and we’ll get it relayed in, and then we go from there.”
Being able to audible is not a given in this Steelers’ offense. Indeed, quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who started the first four games for the team, stated that his ability to audible was limited. Still, this is not an offense that appears to change the plays at the line of scrimmage all that often.
There are success stories that resulted from Pickett’s playcalling. Indeed, he called the game-winning run play against the Indianapolis Colts during a timeout. Pickett having a voice in play calling dates back to the preseason, and it’s something that certainly won’t hurt his development.
Against the Las Vegas Raiders, Pickett led an impressive game-winning touchdown drive in frigid conditions, which he was asked about in the context of his ability to change the play.
“I guess it’s there if I want to use it,” Pickett said when asked about his ability to change the play during the team’s final drives. “We were fortunate to have some timeouts, and come to the sideline and communicate.”
Down four with 2:55 left in the game, Pickett had to surmount a game-winning drive that Steelers Nation had seen countless times from his predecessor. He put together a 10-play, 76-yard drive that he capped off with a laser throw to fellow rookie George Pickens.
The team indeed took two timeouts, one before a 4th and 1 Pickett sneak, and the other before the game-winning touchdown, and also had the two-minute warning early in the drive. The fact that Pickett has earned the trust of his coaching staff to have a significant input on the offense is a good sign, especially given that he is a rookie.
Many great quarterbacks, such as Peyton Manning, made a career out of mastering audibles and understanding defenses. Making the right play call is half the battle as a quarterback, and seeing that Pickett is already doing it is a promising sign.