“He can’t keep getting away with it!”
If you’re a fan of the TV Show Breaking Bad, you get the reference. If not…welp, sorry.
The last two weeks, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback has left defenses screaming the same thing at the end of games. After being relatively quiet and struggling to put up points throughout the first three-and-a-half quarters in the last two weeks, Pickett has turned it on when it matters most, leading the Steelers on back-to-back game-winning touchdown drives against the Las Vegas Raiders and Baltimore Ravens, putting the Steelers right in the mix for the AFC playoffs.
Sunday night’s comeback win over the Ravens was possibly the moment where Pickett cemented himself as a franchise quarterback for the black and gold wit the masterful game-winning drive, hitting second-year running back Najee Harris for a 10-yard touchdown on a throw up the left sideline the scramble drill with under a minute to go, giving the Steelers a much-needed win.
Now, sitting at 8-8, the Steelers stare down a must-win matchup in Week 18 against the Cleveland Browns at Acrisure Stadium. Win, and the Steelers need the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots to lose to the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, respectively, to get into the AFC playoffs as the No. 7 seed.
That performance Sunday night was a thriller from Pickett and the Steelers and was classic Steelers-Ravens. It was so thrilling, in fact, that NFL.com Around the NFL writer Dan Hanzus moved the Steelers up three spots in his latest power rankings, placing the Steelers No. 14 overall, the highest they’ve been all season.
The move up is largely due to Pickett’s heroics.
“Kenny F—— Pickett.” Apparently, those were the three words uttered by Mike Tomlin to Kenny Pickett seconds after the rookie quarterback led the Steelers on the second late go-ahead touchdown drive in as many weeks in a dramatic prime-time win over the rival Ravens. Pickett has made strides over the course of his first season and shows poise not usually seen from a young QB,” Hanzus writes in his explanation for ranking the Steelers 14th. “It makes him a snug fit for a Pittsburgh team that — with its T.J. Watt-led defense and improving running game — needs a quarterback who can run the offense in a smart and efficient manner. It’s extremely promising to see Pickett already at this place in his development. And stunningly, given the 2-6 start to the season, the Steelers can still make the playoffs with a home win over the Browns and some outside help.”
Pickett has checked seemingly every box anyone could have wanted coming into his rookie season.
After a slow start filled with lots of turnovers before the Week 9 bye week, things have slowed down for the rookie quarterback. He’s turned the ball over just once since the bye week, is being very smart and efficient with the football, and is making a ton of plays out of structure.
While his pocket presence remain a slight concern, at least for this writer, he’s making all the throws required to be a good starting quarterback in the NFL. Most importantly, he’s winning games late in pressure-packed situations.
It doesn’t matter how it looks, as long as you get the win. That’s what the Steelers are doing. 5-1 since falling to 3-7 in Week 11 and now on the doorstep of a playoff berth. Add in the fact that the Steelers are now on the cusp of the top 10 in Hanzus’ popular power rankings and there’s really only one word to describe this run from the black and gold: remarkable.