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‘Very Good Young Player’: Kevin Stefanski Impressed With Steelers Rookie QB Kenny Pickett

Trailing 13-9 late in the fourth quarter on the road at M&T Bank Stadium against a tough Baltimore Ravens defense that hadn’t allowed a touchdown at home in 15 quarters, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett had a rather tall task in front of him.

One week after leading the Steelers to a thrilling win over the Las Vegas Raiders at Acrisure Stadium on Christmas Eve in the final seconds with a 14-yard touchdown pass to fellow rookie George Pickens to keep the Steelers’ faint playoff hopes alive, Pickett needed another dose of late-game magic and heroics in Week 17.

Third and 8, a little over a minute left in the game, Pickett delivered again, this time scrambling and finding second-year running back Najee Harris on a perfectly-thrown football up the left sideline for the 10-yard touchdown, putting the Steelers in front 16-13 with under a minute to go.

That moment, much like Ben Roethlisberger as a rookie throwing on the run to Plaxico Burress against the Cleveland Browns for a 37-yard touchdown or the Roethlisberger 47-yard touchdown pass on the run to Burress a few weeks later in 2004, was the moment of deliverance for Pickett.

That play to Harris was when Pickett became, well, Kenny bleeping Pickett, much like Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was seen saying to his rookie quarterback coming off the field after the scoring drive.

That moment made believers out of seemingly everyone across the NFL landscape when it comes to the Steelers rookie quarterback. He checked a lot of boxes in the win, which was one of his best overall individual performances of the season.

For Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski, whom the Steelers will match up with on Sunday at Acrisure Stadium at 1 p.m. with an AFC playoff berth on the line for the black and gold, he sees a good, young player overall that rises up in the big moments and can make all the throws.

“A very good young player. Athletic. Can make all of the throws. Has played well in big moments,” Stefanski said of the Steelers rookie quarterback, according to Steelers.com. “They are a little bit different than the last time we played them because he is just a little bit different. A really, really good young player.”

Of course, the last time the Steelers and Browns matched up was in Week 3 of the season on Thursday Night Football in Cleveland. That night, the Browns battled against quarterback Mitch Trubisky. While Trubisky was solid in that performance, the Steelers are certainly a different team and have a different look and different level of success with Pickett under center.

Able to make all the throws, smart with the football and possessing a moxie and confidence level that Trubisky simply doesn’t, Pickett has the Steelers buying in and believing in him every time he steps between the white lines. That was the case at Pitt, and that’s the case now with the Steelers.

Though he needs to work on the deep ball a bit more, he can make all of the throws required in the NFL, is unafraid to pull the trigger in big spots, and just has an unwavering belief in himself and his abilities that resonates throughout not only the offense, but the team in general, which is a big reason why the Steelers have galvanized and rebounded to get to 8-8 on the season.

To get into the AFC playoffs in 2022, the Steelers will need that “good, young player” in Pickett to show up once again when all the chips are on the table Sunday, delivering another winning performance to send the Steelers to the postseason.

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