Yesterday was a momentous day in Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett’s life. The rookie first-round draft pick finally made his NFL debut, scored his first touchdown, and has presumably begun his starting career following head coach Mike Tomlin’s decision to insert him over starter Mitch Trubisky at halftime.
But you don’t spend much time thinking about those sorts of things in the moment. There’s no time for it. There’s a job to do, and that’s where Pickett’s focus was. And his concerns after the game didn’t allow for reflection on the enormity of the moment, either. He only had one emotion: disappointment.
“I wanted to come in there and get the win. That’s really just the emotion, just disappointed we didn’t come out with the outcome we worked so hard for”, he told reporters after the game according to video from the team’s website. “Definitely something that we need to learn from and move on”.
The Pitt product has spent the last five years of his life playing on this grass, so he certainly knows the terrain, but this is a whole new chapter. He’s now the quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and having spent all that time in the city, he understands exactly what that means. And what that means for him specifically coming to the Steelers as a Panther.
But once again, it’s not about the moment, it’s about the job. Although he played well, he wasn’t interested in the message, the story. He was interested in the bottom line. “Like I said, I wanted to win, more than anything, so I don’t know what I proved to anybody, but we didn’t win, so that’s the one thing we didn’t do”, he said after the game when asked what he felt as though he was able to go out there and prove in his NFL debut. “So that’s really my only focus”.
There were things that he ‘proved’ of course, or at least things that he put on tape once or twice. He was able to execute a quarterback sneak successfully a couple of times, so we know that’s in the playbook now. He showed the willingness and ability to stand in the pocket and deliver an accurate ball knowing he was going to take a hit. He showed fearlessness pushing the ball down the field, and there were some good mechanics and touch on certain passes.
There was a lot of good, a lot to be encouraged by. But it was still a loss, and it was a loss that has what is now Pickett’s team sitting at 1-3 on the season. Fortunately, the AFC North is underperforming so far this year, nobody with a record better than 2-2, so anybody counting the Steelers out based purely on record is in error. But it still looks bleak for 2022. We’ll see what next week tells us.