‘You Are On Your Way To Being Right In That Category With Them:’ Roethlisberger To Pickett On AFC North QB Hierarchy

While the landscape of the league has changed quite a bit since former quarterback Ben Roethlisberger retired in 2021, one thing remains the same: the AFC North is one of the toughest divisions in football.

Roethlisberger recently had current quarterback Kenny Pickett on his Channel Seven, Footbahlin podcast for the first time and they shared thoughts on the current state of the AFC North.

“You’re in a tough division,” Roethlisberger noted. “There are three really good quarterbacks out there and I think you are on your way to being right in that category with them.”

Going into 2023, the talk of the division is the quarterback play. Pickett showed promise in his rookie season, but he is certainly the least accomplished starter in the division. Going up against Pro Bowlers Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, and Deshaun Watson six times a season for the foreseeable future will be quite the test for the sophomore Pickett.

However, quarterback play isn’t the only challenge that Pickett will face within the division this season. The Baltimore Ravens’ defense has always been a huge challenge for Steeler quarterbacks. This season should be no different. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed roam the field no more, but the Ravens have assembled a new-look defense that is still one of the best in the league. This defense held Pittsburgh to just 30 points in two games last season and ranked third in the league in scoring.

“The Ravens’ linebacking corps is really good,” Pickett noted. “I handed it off…to [Najee Harris] and heard some pop in there…that was just different than I’ve heard.”

Roethlisberger agreed and shared the same feeling from his playing days.

“That Raven week was always something different,” he said. “It was going to be a painful one.”

Pickett unfortunately experienced the pain a Ravens defense can deliver firsthand last season. A hit from linebacker Roquan Smith in week 14 sent him into concussion protocol. Pickett ultimately did not return to that contest, a Pittsburgh loss. He was able to get some revenge in Week 17, as he led a game-winning drive against the Ravens en route to a 16-13 Steelers victory.

The Bengals were also a top-five scoring defense in their own right last season, and present yet another challenge for Pickett. The Steelers’ offense did have a bit more success against Cincinnati. They scored 30 points on them in Week 11, the most the Bengals gave up all season.

The Steelers haven’t finished last in the AFC North since its inception in 2002. If they want that trend to continue, Pickett is going to have to grow up quick, similar to how Roethlisberger did to start his career.

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