Hardest worker in the room. First one in, last one out. Film junkie.
Those are all labels a franchise wants its face of the franchise and QB1 to exemplify, and that’s exactly what Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett did in his rookie season in 2022. He did that so much, in fact, that he needed to take some vitamin D during the season because he wasn’t getting enough sunshine.
Speaking with Steelers.com’s Teresa Varley for a terrific feature that the team site posted Monday, Pickett said he was typically in the building when it was still dark out in the morning, and then didn’t leave the South Side facility until it was dark, meaning he was working on his craft and preparing for the game ahead from sunrise to sunset.
“I would be here mighty early. And I left mighty late,” Pickett said, according to original reporting from Varley. “Showing up here when it was dark out and leaving when it’s dark is a little bit depressing. I was taking some vitamin D for sure.
“I don’t track the hours. I just kind of go through how I need to prepare and then whatever it ends up being, it ends up being. It would be about leaving the building when I felt good about the day’s work, and I felt really confident going into the game.”
The coaching staff had Pickett working primarily with the third-team offense during the offseason behind 2022 free agent addition Mitch Trubisky and veteran reserve Mason Rudolph. Trubisky opened the season as the starter, which appeared to be quietly scripted all along, but Pickett proved worthy of dressing, in large part due to his work ethic and overall preparation. That led to a lot of success on the field during training camp and in the preseason.
Head coach Mike Tomlin decided to pull the cord and let Pickett loose after the offense struggled under Trubisky into Week 4. The veteran was benched at halftime against the New York Jets and the rookie came in. He hasn’t looked back.
His official stat line on the season was 12 starts in 13 games, 245-for-389 passing for 2,404 yards with 7 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He rushed for 237 yards and three touchdowns on 55 attempts, including many successful quarterback sneaks, and posted a 7-5 record.
In just a short time, Pickett’s already shown himself to be a leader and film junkie, absorbing as much information as he can to make him as prepared as possible heading into every game. He showed that entering his first career start against the Buffalo Bills, too, pulling cornerback Levi Wallace aside for nearly an hour in the week before the game to speak to the former Buffalo cornerback and glean some inside information.
Having the foresight to talk to a former Bills player and pick his brain is impressive enough, but there was more of that from Pickett throughout the season that continued to show his work ethic and determination. Appearing on the Pat McAfee Show in mid-January, Pickett revealed he even joined Mike Tomlin and the coaching staff in meetings early in the week to get a jump on the game plan. An unusual move for a rookie quarterback, it shows how seriously Pickett takes the job, not to mention the fact that he has his own cubicle in the facility for film study.
In fact, Pickett was doing that interview on the McAfee Show from the Steelers’ locker room on the South Side, adding that he took a week off after the season but had already returned to training and making plans to work out with players in Florida later in the offseason, which he did in early March.
He’s the team’s unquestioned starter heading into 2023, no longer the wide-eyed rookie battling for his place on the depth chart. Having that type of leader at the top that not only sets the tone on the field. His work ethic and lead-by-example attitude by showing up early every day will only rub off on his teammates as they continue to gravitate toward him.