By: Coral Smith
Kenny Pickett was the only quarterback drafted in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, going No. 20 overall and two rounds before any other QB. With that selection, Pickett stayed in his hometown and has the chance to eventually become the next franchise quarterback for a team which has had the same player at the position for almost two decades.
And as he takes in his first practices as a Steeler during this week’s rookie minicamp, Pickett has received advice from the man who held the position he’s trying to fill: Ben Roethlisberger, who retired at the end of the 2021 season after 18 years as Pittsburgh’s signal-caller.
Pickett revealed Friday that Big Ben reached out to him and offered himself as a source as Pickett transitions to NFL life. Being able to pick Roethlisberger’s brain will be an incredible asset will aid his transition from college to the NFL.
“He said he’s always there for me if I have any questions or advice,” Pickett said. “I mean, he’s an unbelievable player, a Hall of Famer, so he’s a guy that I will definitely use as a resource in these coming weeks here.”
With Big Ben under center the Steelers had consistent success, never recording a regular-season losing record during his career. Roethlisberger led Pittsburgh to 12 playoff appearances and three Super Bowls in his time with the team, winning it all in 2005 and 2008.
So the next starting quarterback for the Steelers has big shoes to fill, and advice from the man who made it happen can only help Pickett in his journey to be that guy.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has said that Pickett will have the chance to compete for the starting role, but he will be up against two veterans in Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph. Trubisky, a former first-round pick, was signed to a two-year deal by Pittsburgh in the offseason and has the benefit of extensive starting experience, while Rudolph has the advantage of having been with the team for three years and therefore already knowing the Steelers offense. But both have pitfalls, and Pickett’s youth, skills, and other intangibles could help him win the job.
To make himself competitive with his more experienced teammates, Pickett said he’s been obsessively learning the playbook to catch up.
“I mean, I got no shot if I don’t know what I’m doing, so just really dedicate myself to the playbook and learning every detail I possibly can to give ourselves the best shot to operate out here,” Pickett said. “I can’t give you hours per day. Just until I feel comfortable with it. So, I mean, it’s studying here and then we get let out and taking it back to the hotel and having my iPad out. Like I said, just doing as much as I can to feel good out here so I can play fast. That’s the number one key.”
The rest of the Steelers will join the rookies for voluntary team workouts in the next few weeks, at which point the QB competition will start to heat up, and we’ll begin to see how much a future-Hall-of-Famer’s advice has helped Pickett as he works to be on the field in Week 1.