Kevin Colbert is no longer the Pittsburgh Steelers’ general manager. Meaning we hear even less from him than we did when he ran the team. But in a rare interview since stepping down from his post, Colbert shared his thoughts on the final first-round pick he’ll ever make – Pitt QB Kenny Pickett. In an interview on the Armstrong Neighborhood YouTube channel, Colbert analyzed Pickett’s play.
“Kenny took good strides,” Colbert told the show’s Ed Codi. “He really did. Any rookie quarterback goes through a tough adjustment period because it’s a completely different game.”
Pickett was the team’s first 1st-round quarterback since Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, massive shoes to fill following Roethlisberger’s Hall of Fame career. Pickett entered camp as the team’s #3 quarterback and after a bumpy first week of camp, got more comfortable and began showing why he was the team’s top pick. He shined in preseason action and moved up the depth chart, becoming Mitch Trubisky’s backup to start the regular season. By halftime of Week Four, Pickett became the starter and didn’t look back.
Still, Colbert acknowledged that it took Pickett some time to get used to the NFL.
“It’s a completely different level and really a completely different game,” Colbert said. “And you have to learn, especially at the quarterback position. I think Kenny would be the first to admit it was big for him the first time he had OTAs and minicamps and training camps and preseason and regular season.”
Pickett had a difficult start to his career. Playing with a heavy heart, his first career start came in a Week 5 blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills. At the bye week, the Steelers were floundering with a 2-6 record. But he and the rest of the offense regrouped, and with T.J. Watt returning, Pittsburgh went 7-2 down the stretch. Pickett took care of the football and led a pair of game-winning drives against the Las Vegas Raiders and Baltimore Ravens to keep the team’s slim playoff hopes alive. For Pickett, he looked like the player he was at Pitt.
“I saw the other day where [Pickett] commented the game had slowed down,” Colbert said. “So I was very optimistic coming out of his first year. Just the way he approached and acknowledged some of the shortcomings that he had early and some of the things that he did to correct those as their season went on. He helped lead them to a winning season.”
The Steelers finished the year at 9-8, continuing their streak of non-losing seasons under Mike Tomlin. That certainly isn’t the team’s goal but it’s a sign of where the team is hopefully headed. Last season, the Steelers had the youngest offense in football, and it showed with growing pains the first half of the year. But they collectively got better as the year went on and with little change this offseason, aside from upgrading the offensive line, the offense should be on better footing entering this summer. For Pickett, there’s no question about his role. He’s the starter, he’s the leader, and it’s his team now. For Colbert, 2022 was a good start. But for him to justify being the team’s #1 pick, there’s plenty more to do.
“That’s a positive step in the right direction,” Colbert said. “But he’ll be the first to admit there’s a long way to go.”
You can catch the full interview below.