There was a lot of talk following the 2022 NFL Draft about how much easier the transition would be for new Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett, since he spent the past five years playing in the same stadium and training next door.
When it comes to actually adjusting from the college game to the pros, however, it doesn’t seem to have made much difference as far as geography goes. Hopping on the Pat McAfee Show yesterday, he downplayed how much of an advantage it was during his rookie season to have had that geographic familiarity.
“I’m gonna be honest, I don’t think too much. Like, I know where to get my groceries but besides that, it’s the NFL”, he said. “It’s a completely different game. I think it’s cool having some friends, some of my best buddies live in the same apartment complex as me. That’s cool I think. But in terms of learning the NFL, there’s so many things that you have to learn, but it’s definitely nice having a familiar feel for the area”.
One could argue that he’s underestimating the significance of that domestic familiarity, and I think there’s a case to be made there, though it really varies from person to person. Making the adjustment from college to the pros isn’t just about a higher level of the game. It’s also about moving on to an adult life and a career and, basically, becoming an adult responsible for taking care of yourself.
Others struggle with that aspect of the transition, like former Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant. There was even a point after his rookie season and he was slapped with a suspension that Bryant’s mother moved across the street from him so that she could help him stay the course. It sadly didn’t quite work out.
That being said, he’s right that playing in the same stadium doesn’t really help you read NFL defenses any better or make you any faster than your professional peers. He also talked about how he could run at half speed against college defensive linemen simply because of the difference in talent level.
Whether he was in Pittsburgh or in another locker room in another NFL city, he still would have had a set of coaches and teammates just as motivated and dedicated to seeing him succeed. This may well be where he wanted to end up, but football is still football and the NFL is still the NFL. Pitt’s program offers no greater preparation for that than any number of other schools.
But it’s good to know where to get the good lunch meat in the city and things like that. It’s good to limit the amount of change you have to deal with while you’re experiencing a major transition. It’s that work-life balance you might say that, if anything, eased his burden as a rookie.