For the second week in a row, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett engineered a game-winning drive to keep the team’s playoff hopes alive and save their season. In Week 16, it came on Christmas Eve against the Las Vegas Raiders, hitting wide receiver George Pickens for the game-winning score with 48 seconds left. In Week 17 it came on New Years Day on the road against the Baltimore Ravens when Pickett was able to evade pressure and find running back Najee Harris for a touchdown with 56 seconds left to give the Steelers a 16-13 lead they never let go of. In his postgame press conference, Pickett talked about the importance of everyone doing their job on the final drive and his ability to stay collected under pressure.
“Everyone’s gotta do their job and I gotta find a way to get the guys the ball and get it in the end zone. So, it’s a team effort, group effort. Stevie [Sims] really did a huge job, bending in their on that seam. Biggest play of the drive besides the touchdown. So, you never know when your number’s gonna be called,” Pickett said via the team’s YouTube channel.
The 28-yard completion to Sims came five plays before the game-winning touchdown, and it brought the Steelers from midfield to the Baltimore 22. It was just Sims’ 13th catch of the season, and he entered the game with just 11 receptions. But he came through on the final drive, adjusting his route at the end to make a huge play and set the Steelers up with prime field position right before the two-minute warning.
It was also a huge throw by Pickett, keeping his eyes downfield and attacking over the middle of the field. Pickett talked about the importance of staying confident as a quarterback and having the confidence of the rest of the team.
“It’s just confidence that I’ve always had in myself is showing up on the field and I think guys are starting to feel that,” Pickett said. “Going to a huddle and seeing how confident everybody is as a quarterback, they have a lot of belief in you and I have a lot of belief in the guys in that huddle. So when that’s there, you definitely have a shot.”
Pickett’s play during the final drive oozed confidence. He had just 105 yards going into the final drive, and as a rookie with the season on the line, it’s not an easy situation. The moment wasn’t too big for Pickett though, as on the fourth play of the drive, right after converting a quarterback sneak, he was able to extend the play and hit tight end Pat Freiermuth for a 20-yard gain right at midfield. Going no-huddle and trying to get one more play in before the two-minute warning, Pickett again took a shot downfield and that’s when he was able to connect with Sims for the 28-yard gain.
After not really attacking downfield much of the game, Pickett didn’t lack confidence and was able to lead the Steelers on their lone touchdown drive with the game and season on the line. He looked more like a veteran who’s been in the situation dozens of times rather than a rookie who’s limited in his experience in late-game situations. As a result, the Steelers are 8-8 and have a shot at the playoffs heading into Week 18.