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Kenny Pickett Wanted To Play Right Away As Rookie, But Trusted Tomlin ‘Had A Plan For Me’

Kenny Pickett Mike Tomlin Steelers QB quarterback

No NFL team, at least in the modern era, has ever or would ever draft a quarterback in the first round without at some point intending for him to be their starter. Even the Green Bay Packers, who have twice used a first-round pick on a quarterback with an entrenched starter in place, eventually moved on.

There was no question of if for the Pittsburgh Steelers once they used the 20th-overall pick on Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett in the 2022 NFL Draft. The only question was when. For Pickett, the answer would have been immediately, but all along he trusted the process.

As a competitor you want to play. You don’t want to go out there, run out of the tunnel, and then sit there on the sideline with your helmet”, he said about the beginning of his rookie season, during an appearance on The Pivot podcast with Ryan Clark, Channing Crowder, and Fred Taylor.

“But, listen, I trust [head coach] Mike T[omlin] wholeheartedly”, he added with emphasis. “He has a plan. I knew he had a plan for me, and whatever it was, I’m like, I’m all in on it and whatever he wants me to do, I’m doing”.

The Steelers signed veteran Mitch Trubisky to a two-year, $16 million contract in free agency last March following the retirement of 18-year starter Ben Roethlisberger. Even though he may or may not have known, however, Pittsburgh always planned, it seemed, to draft Pickett if that was in the cards.

There were plenty of high fives, I’m sure, when pick 19 came and went and Pickett was still sitting there, knowing that they would be getting their guy. But that wouldn’t change perceptions of the timeline. It seemed assured from the beginning that they weren’t going to throw him out there right away, and indeed, Trubisky started the first four games until Tomlin yanked him.

The offense was struggling mightily under Trubisky, and though he didn’t share in all the blame, he certainly owned his part. Tomlin cited the need for a spark in inserting him at halftime in week four. And Pickett believes his weeks as an observer served him well when his name was called.

“I was able to get into a good rhythm and routine of film study and preparation and learning how to do that as a pro”, he told his hosts. “I had Coach T to guide me early on and what that process looks like, and we really refined it, so when the point came where I became the starter, it was just another week for me in terms of preparation”.

Yet he threw three interceptions in his debut, and then was blown out, 38-3, in his first start. Even his first win a week later wasn’t his. Though the Steelers were winning at the time that he was knocked out of the game against the Buccaneers, Trubisky had to close the game out and secure the win.

Things would improve over the course of the season, naturally, and he finished with six more well-earned wins, most of them by virtue of game-winning drives. But the best is still yet to come, surely. It was to the future Tomlin and the Steelers looked when they made their decision a year ago. The future starts now.

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