Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett had a lot of good moments as a rookie, but some of his best came at the end of games. Pickett led the Steelers on game-winning fourth-quarter drives in back-to-back weeks against the Las Vegas Raiders and Baltimore Ravens, and his play in the clutch was one of the more encouraging things about his rookie season. During an appearance on the Maggie & Perloff show on CBS Sports Radio with Maggie Gray and Andrew Perloff, Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt talked about Pickett being clutch and said the moment he began to trust Pickett as the Steelers future quarterback came in Week 17 when he led the game-winning drive against the Ravens.
“The moment I can really pick out is when we were in Baltimore and they were driving and we were probably not even at half field yet and Kenny was taking the offense down the field and we already grabbed our helmets as a defense and we were talking about what plays we were gonna run, how we were gonna rush the passer and we hadn’t even crossed the 50-yard line yet. We just knew that he was gonna drive them down and score a touchdown. So, I think that’s kinda one of the moments that I look back on and say Kenny is the guy and I look forward to playing with him for many years,” Watt said via CBS Sports Radio’s YouTube channel.
While Pickett may never be a top-five quarterback in the NFL, his ability in the clutch separates him from a lot of other quarterbacks. Being clutch isn’t something that can be taught, and it’s one of the intangibles that really separates quarterbacks. A guy can be great all game, but if he falters down the stretch with his team trailing late in the game, he’s never going to truly be successful. You have to be able to win close games to be a successful starting quarterback in the NFL, and Pickett has shown the ability to do so in his young career.
That’s one of the reasons why Pickett will likely be this team’s quarterback for a long time. He might not ever be Joe Burrow or Patrick Mahomes, but if the Steelers construct their roster correctly, Pickett can be a guy who continually leads them deep into the playoffs and potentially to a Super Bowl one day. He obviously still has to progress and also begin to push the ball down the field more than he did in 2022, but if Pickett is able to win close games and lead his team on game-winning drives, he’ll be a longtime starter in the league.
He’ll also have more help in 2023 as the Steelers will get back 2022 fourth-round pick Calvin Austin III from injury, and they’ll also likely add to the wide receiver room via the NFL Draft or free agency. Pickett really only had a few reliable targets this year, so adding more receiving threats should also help him improve going forward. In addition, the team’s route tree for pass catchers was limited this year, and it really should evolve in Matt Canada’s third year as offensive coordinator. If it doesn’t, Canada’s third year will more than likely be his last year. Having a higher diversity of routes can expand YAC opportunities for receivers and ideally also give Pickett more opportunities to take shots downfield.
Pickett’s clutch gene is probably his most impressive trait, and hopefully, it’s something that he continues to show off in the coming years and can do so in big moments.