‘I Severely Underestimated Kenny:’ Roethlisberger Says Sky Is The Limit For Pickett
Since the last time Ben Roethlisberger did his Footbahlin podcast, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett led two game-winning drives to keep the Steelers’ playoff hopes alive. Now that he’s played in 12 games this season (11 if you don’t count the Baltimore Ravens’ first game) Pickett has put up a lot of tape for people to start making inferences about his game.
One of those who has come to a conclusion is Roethlisberger. On his podcast today, Roethlisberger talked about how Pickett has been playing really well, even better than he first thought.
“I, in my opinion, severely underestimated Kenny,” Roethlisberger said. “I think he throws the ball better than I thought, he runs a lot better than I expected and thought, his decision-making is really, really good, his leadership, his toughness, [he has] only one edge to it looks like. So I apologize, not that I made this sound to someone else, but in my head. Kenny, keep doing what you’re doing because you’re leading this team and becoming the guy everyone hoped you would be. I think the sky’s the limit for him, really.”
I can imagine a lot of people were excited to hear Roethlisberger’s thoughts on the man who was called upon to fill his big shoes, and we finally got them. Roethlisberger, like many others, didn’t think Pickett would set the world on fire. Many people felt that Pickett didn’t have the best physical tools to be a very good quarterback, especially in today’s NFL with superhuman athletic quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen.
However, as he always has, Pickett has shown up and proved people wrong. On the season Pickett has six touchdown passes, nine interceptions and has thrown for 2,209 yards. While those interception numbers are high, eight of them came before the bye week. Since Pickett has returned from his bye week and gotten more comfortable, his game has improved and he’s cut down on turnovers. Since the bye week, Pickett has led four game-winning drives, showing that he has the herd gene in him like his predecessor. He is the first rookie to ever pitch back-to-back game-winning drives, two must-win games for the Steelers.
Roethlisberger said there’s still a lot to unlock with Pickett, and that what’s more important than this year is how he looks in his second or third year.
“Now let’s see what the second year, the third year looks like. That will be the key, in my opinion, as I said to take the next step. But he is everything and even more than I thought he would be.”
While a bad rookie year or even a good rookie year is important, Roethlisberger is right that years two and three are even more important. Once a quarterback hits his second or third year, you normally have an idea of what he’s going to be. A recent quarterback who took a crazy second and third year leap is Josh Allen. Allen had a rough first year, throwing 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. In his second NFL season he threw 20 touchdowns and only nine interceptions leading the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs. His third year was crazy. Allen threw 37 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions en route to his first Pro Bowl appearance. If you were to just judge Allen on what he did in his rookie year, you’d think he was just another first-round quarterback bust.
Now, I don’t want to compare the two or try to say that Pickett will be Allen. However, it supports Roethlisberger’s point that a quarterback’s second and third years are more important than his rookie year. Now, Pickett is on an upward trajectory, and hopefully he can take that upward trajectory and get even better next year, solidifying himself as Pittsburgh’s franchise guy.
“He’s playing with confidence now. It’s showing and flowing from him and his team.”
Roethlisberger, having been an elite quarterback for nearly his entire career, knows what a good quarterback looks like. Him singing Pickett’s praises means a lot, and if he’s right and the Steelers have found their franchise guy, then the team is in a good place. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and it’s possible the Steelers may have just found theirs.
Watch the full episode below.