Generally, a team doesn’t want to have to put a lot on a rookie quarterback’s shoulders.
On Saturday night inside Acrisure Stadium on an emotionally charged night honoring the late, great Franco Harris on his jersey retirement night and one day after the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception, that’s exactly what the Pittsburgh Steelers did with rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett, who fittingly enough was the draft pick announced by Harris back in April.
Needing a touchdown to win the game, the Steelers turned to Pickett to lead a young offense down the field.
He did just that in 10 plays, marching 76 yards in 2:09 of game time before finding fellow rookie George Pickens up the seam for a 14-yard touchdown, giving the Steelers a 13-10 lead with 46 seconds left.
Ultimately, the Steelers held on with a Cam Sutton interception in the final seconds, but for defensive captain and team leader Cameron Heyward, he was most impressed by the job Pickett did late in the game, leading a young offense down the field and punching in the game-winning touchdown.
“You know, it’s funny…I forget who I was talking to about it, but I was saying we don’t wanna put it all on the rookie shoulders. But, you know, he did a hell of a job today,” Heyward stated to reporters following the win regarding Pickett, according to video via the Steelers official YouTube page. “We needed seven at the end. We needed that touchdown. And for him to answer the bell, that whole offensive group to answer that bell, was pretty special.”
The final scoring drive of the game for the Steelers was rather special, and it was fitting that a guy like second-year running back Najee Harris made some crucial plays down the stretch on the day Franco Harris was honored.
Pickett made some key plays with his legs, extending plays in the pocket to find second-year tight end Pat Freiermuth for gains of 17 yards and 10 yards. Pickett also found Harris for 19 yards over the middle on a checkdown, and then Harris later hurdled a defender for a gain of 5 before eventually finding rookie wide receiver George Pickens for the game-winning score on a 14-yard strike between two Raiders defenders.
When the Steelers absolutely needed it the most, Pickett and the young offense responded, and that drew the praise from Heyward. It was a special drive that capped off a special night. It showed some serious moxie and confidence from Pickett as well, which is what he can build off of moving forward.