‘I Don’t Think Any Of Us Are Surprised:’ Tomlin Says Pickett’s Late-Game Ability Was ‘Lynchpin’ For Steelers Drafting Him

Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett has led game-winning drives in the final two minutes in back-to-back drives, helping move the Steelers to 8-8 and putting them in a position to have a shot to make the playoffs heading into Week 18. During The Mike Tomlin Show on Saturday afternoon, Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin talked about Pickett’s late-game ability and why the Steelers aren’t surprised with him coming up in the clutch.

“I don’t think any of us are surprised by his ability to do that. I think things such as that was the lynchpin for us for selecting him in the draft,” Tomlin said via the team’s YouTube channel. “In particular at the quarterback position, but all positions, that intangible quality, that competitive spirit, that ability and willingness to rise up in tough times and it bringing out the best in you is something that we better ascertain information about and gain an understanding about a guy’s capabilities in those areas. And we are very familiar with his and we do acknowledge its existence and that’s why we’re not extremely surprised, to be quite honest with you.”

The Steelers obviously were very familiar with Pickett coming out of the University of Pittsburgh, as the Steelers and Panthers share a facility and the Steelers were able to see Pickett up close on numerous occasions. Tomlin also talked about how the Steelers were impressed with Pickett’s mobility and ability to throw on the run with accuracy.

“It’s a component of his game, that’s another thing that we were really attracted to in the evaluation process.”

At the time of the Steelers’ selection, the general consensus was that the pick was probably a reach. There were even questions about whether or not Pickett was the best quarterback in the draft. 16 games later, it seems clear that the Steelers made the right choice. Not only has Pickett brought the Steelers back from a 2-6 start to now have a chance to make the playoffs, but he’s done it while performing at a high level over the last few weeks. The rookie has limited turnovers, made the right reads, and when he needs to take a shot as he did in the game-winning drive against the Ravens, he’s shown the ability to do so and put his throws right on the money.

Pickett and the Steelers still have to take care of business in Week 18 against the Cleveland Browns and get some help to make the playoffs. But I don’t think many people would’ve pegged the Steelers as a playoff team before the season with Pickett as their starting quarterback. Even at 8-8, the team has surpassed expectations, as their preseason over/under on most major sportsbooks was at 7.5. For them to be in playoff contention and playing a meaningful playoff game in Week 18 is a testament to the coaching staff, but also a testament to Pickett and the rest of the Steelers for improving after the bye week and becoming a legitimate threat in the AFC.

We’ll see what happens on Sunday, but given Pickett’s development throughout the season, it’s hard to call the 2022 season anything but a success.

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