The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a long history of legendary quarterback play. From Terry Bradshaw in the 1970s to Ben Roethlisberger in the 2000s and into the 2010s, there has been no shortage of clutch and memorable drives and moments. As current quarterback Kenny Pickett moves into his second season, he looks to take another step forward in his efforts to become Pittsburgh’s next franchise quarterback.
Pickett recently spoke on Roethlisberger’s Channel Seven’s Footbahlin podcast for the first time and Roethlisberger shared his praise regarding Pickett’s ability to come through in the clutch in his rookie season.
“You had the ball four or five times in the latter half of the year” Roethlisberger told Pickett. “Those were the only times I was jealous of you…There’s always those guys, that understand the game of football…having that feel for the game, I can tell you have it.”
This is high praise coming from Roethlisberger, as he time and time again proved during his playing days that his game only got better when the stakes were high. He led 53 game-winning drives during his career, trailing only Tom Brady and Peyton Manning all-time.
While Pickett and the Steelers struggled early in the season, the Pittsburgh University product was able to guide the Steelers to a 7-2 record coming out of the Week 9 bye. Increased ball control was a key aspect in this turnaround. Pickett threw just one interception in seven full games a post-bye week, after throwing eight in his first five games.
A highlight was the Christmas Eve game against the Las Vegas Raiders. The Steelers got the ball back down four with just under three minutes to go. Despite the offense not being prolific for most of the game, Pickett was able to lead a 76-yard drive that clinched the win for Pittsburgh. He capped it off with a 14-yard touchdown strike to George Pickens. Roethlisberger was even at Heinz Field for that game against the Raiders and recalled that play.
“You threw a seam up the middle to Pickens….you looked the safety off to perfection, and put a dart on him…it was awesome to watch. You had a few of those this year.”
Pickett will look to keep the momentum going that he was building up to close the 2023 season, and he will have no shortage of help in the form of offensive weapons. The Steelers drafted tight end Darnell Washington in the second round and signed veteran free agent wideout Allen Robinson III. These additions will bolster already strong Tight End and Wide Receiver rooms.
There will be no quarterback battle at training camp this summer, as this has become Pickett’s team. If the Steelers want to compete this season, he might just need to channel some of that patented Roethlisberger magic in the fourth quarter.