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‘Kenny Can Make Things Happen When It Breaks Down’: Ben Roethlisberger Praises Pickett’s Improv Skills

Quarterback mobility hasn’t exactly been a staple of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense in recent years. Not that he couldn’t skedaddle a bit in his younger days, but late-stage Ben Roethlisberger had his difficulties getting out of the pocket of his own free will, let alone with an athletic linebacker chasing after him.

The drafting of Kenny Pickett completely changed the dynamics they have to work within that department. While he won’t be mistaken for Lamar Jackson any time soon, the former Pitt standout is more than capable of using his legs either to reset the pocket or to take off if necessary. It’s something that Roethlisberger sees as a big asset moving forward.

I think that’s where the Steelers have a good one, that Kenny can make things happen when it breaks down”, he said on the DVE Morning Show yesterday. “We saw that quite a bit this year. Whether someone got beat or they brought someone, he was able to get out of the pocket and extend plays, both by looking downfield and by running”.

Perhaps the most instantly memorable moment was the game-winner in Week 17 over the Baltimore Ravens when Pickett improvised after coming under pressure, lushing out of the pocket to his left and hitting running back Najee Harris in stride for the touchdown.

While he admitted after the game that he broke the pocket sooner than he needed to and that that’s a general tendency he’s working to break, the fact that he is capable of using his legs in that manner and making things happen is big.

He didn’t exactly take off like a madman, but Pickett did accumulate 237 rushing yards as a rookie in 13 games, including three touchdowns. Many of those were quarterback sneaks on 3rd or 4th and 1, but he also had a handful of significant scrambles for double-digit yardage with a long of 23.

He’ll likely only do that even more next season, even as he tries to keep it in the pocket and make something happen with his arm, but Roethlisberger understands things often don’t go according to plan. He told his hosts that plays go off-script generally a lot more than fans might even realize just from watching.

Having a quarterback who is able to buy time with his legs, or create a play on his own with them, adds an element to this offense that it really hasn’t had in some time as age and an accumulation of injuries limited Roethlisberger’s ability and willingness to move out of the pocket.

It also puts less pressure on forcing a quick-pass offense when the offensive line can’t hold up when you have a quarterback who is better equipped to move the pocket and reset or take off. This is one of the many areas we can expect Pickett’s game to evolve and expand going into year two.

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