After a relatively slow start, Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett has strung together an impressive and even historic stretch. That is, he is the first rookie quarterback in league history to throw a game-winning touchdown in the final minute in back-to-back games. That is, Pickett threw a game-winning touchdown to receiver George Pickens against the Las Vegas Raiders, and the following week to running back Najee Harris against AFC North Rival Baltimore Ravens. When asked about the stat during a Wednesday press conference, Pickett downplayed its significance, erring more towards a team-first mentality.
“Yeah, I just got lucky that they’re back-to-back weeks,” Pickett said according to a transcript provided by the team. “I don’t know if anyone’s done it. It’s all about getting wins. We practice that situation so many times. When you get in the game and you’re watching film, when you’re done, you see all the things that you worked on coming to fruition in front of you on tape, you’re coming out of stadiums with victories, that’s all that matters. So, it’s a step in the right direction for our team, for sure.”
On the surface level, Pickett’s stats so far are not mind-boggling. Indeed, his six touchdowns and nine interceptions do not look great and would lead one to believe that he struggled immensely. However, as is often the case, these numbers don’t tell the full story.
Putting together a game-winning drive is not easy, especially for a rookie. It is often a situation that defines many quarterbacks’ careers more so than other accolades. Not only is Pickett the first rookie to throw back-to-back game-winning touchdowns, but he also did so in the second-coldest game in Pittsburgh history, and on the road against a tough Ravens’ defense.
The fact that Pickett is the first rookie quarterback to accomplish this feat speaks volumes, especially given the many great rookie quarterback seasons in recent memory. Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert had 31 touchdowns and ten interceptions in his 2020 rookie season, and Dallas Cowboys quarterback had 13 wins and a playoff berth in his rookie year. The Steelers’ own Ben Roethlisberger had a fine rookie season himself, throwing for 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 13 games to lead the 2004 Steelers to a 15-1 record and top seed.
While Pickett’s numbers do not match up with many of the great rookie seasons in NFL history, he had two game-winning drives in tough conditions with his team’s season on the line and was the first to do so. Thanks to Pickett’s late-game heroics, the Steelers are going into the last game of the season with a real chance for a playoff berth after starting the season 2-6. Regardless, Pickett’s game-winning drives will not be soon forgotten.