During a number of occasions during the 2022 season, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett showed off his clutch gene, as he led game-winning touchdowns drives in Weeks 16 and 17 and also led a crucial fourth-quarter scoring drive in Week 12 against the Indianapolis Colts. Pickett’s ability to lead teams late in games is why former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis believes Pickett can succeed in the NFL. Appearing on The Herd today, Bettis told Colin Cowherd he’s a believer in Pickett.
“I like him,” Bettis told Cowherd. “The last four weeks of the season, we saw his development and he started to go out and win football games. And that’s a hard thing to do in the NFL, for a quarterback, young quarterback, rookie quarterback, to go out in the last drive of the game to drive your team down to a winning touchdown or winning field goal,” Bettis added via the show’s YouTube channel.
“You’ve gotta be special and make those plays. And he made ‘em.”
The one thing you can say with confidence about Pickett is that he’s a gamer. His will to win and ability to do so while leading and commanding the huddle is why I’m confident in him long-term. Pickett was a decent quarterback this year, and he got better throughout the year, particularly in the second half of the season when he cut down on his turnovers and began to push the ball downfield just a bit more. But he, like every quarterback, still had some flaws and the lack of downfield passing in Pittsburgh’s offense is something that needs to change going forward. It’s fair to critique some of what Pickett did in 2022 while also saying that there aren’t a lot of guys you’d take over him to lead a game-winning drive late in the game.
It wasn’t as if Pickett was just feeding off the home crowd and atmosphere. While the atmosphere during the Raiders’ win in Week 16 seemed absolutely incredible in a freezing cold Acrisure Stadium, Pickett’s go-ahead drive in Week 12 came on the road in a hostile environment in Indianapolis on Monday Night Football. In Week 17, he won the game late in Baltimore. Winning in Baltimore is always a tough thing to do, especially with the Ravens coming in to try and play spoiler and keep the Steelers out of the playoffs, but Pickett took control and made big plays to keep the Steelers’ season alive.
There’s a lot that Pickett can improve in his game that will unlock a lot of the offense and help him develop into an upper-tier quarterback in the NFL. But his clutch gene already separates him from guys who haven’t shown the ability to lead their team late in games. I don’t foresee that ever being a problem with Pickett, and I think it’s going to end up being one of his defining traits as his career develops.