Point of reference here. I am a longtime Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Cut my arm, it bleeds black and gold.
And after the quarterback we previously had in our operations finally retired, there was a question as to what would happen with the Steelers going forward. The quarterback position is the heart and soul of any football team, and even more so for the Steelers.
Okay, granted, we picked up Mitch Trubisky on a two-year contract, and we still have Mason Rudolph as an option. But honestly, neither one of these options lights up my excitement. It’s like choosing between painting a room beige or painting a room gray.
So we need a quarterback for the future. Not a “bridge” quarterback like Trubisky. And not a quarterback whose most memorable moment involved his helmet getting torn off and clobbered with it. No.
Now there were a few options in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft. One of them was Kenny Pickett, the quarterback from the University of Pittsburgh. The other was Malik Willis, the quarterback from Liberty. There were a few other options out there, but honestly this wasn’t going to be a quarterback-heavy draft. But those two quarterbacks – Pickett and Willis – were the top prizes for the Steelers. Both men could hold a clipboard for a season, get in the reps in practice, and become game-ready as time progressed.
Then pick after pick in the NFL Draft. The Steelers had the 20th pick, and there were teams ahead in the draft that also needed quarterbacks – Seattle, Washington, New Orleans, just to name a few. Heck, even the Giants were sniffing around for a new man under center, in that they didn’t pick up Daniel Jones’ option. Which meant that one or both players could be off the board by the time Pick #20 rolls around.
But pick by pick, the other NFL teams addressed other concerns. And after nineteen picks were made – none of them quarterbacks – Pittsburgh had their turn. Malik Willis or Kenny Pickett? That’s like deciding if you want strawberry ice cream or vanilla ice cream, and in your heart you’d take Neapolitan ice cream.
But here comes the pick. And NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell brings up Steelers Hall of Famer Franco Harris – you know, he of the “Immaculate Reception” – to make the Steelers’ first-round pick official.
Damn. Look at that emotion. Look at that excitement.
This is what the Steelers should have done in 1983. They had the option to claim a local talent in the draft to learn under Terry Bradshaw, and they let that local talent go. Some kid named Dan Marino. Wonder whatever happened to him.
They don’t make the same mistake. We got Kenny Pickett. This guy could be a starter in his rookie year. He’s got that much talent. His touchdown to interception ratio was 42-7 in his senior year. He led the Pitt Panthers to the ACC Championship.
And for all the blather about Pickett’s hand size – apparently he has smaller hands than a standard NFL quarterback possesses – it’s not the size of the hands that matter. It’s how they grip the football and pass the football and control the football. Although his hands are small when measured flat on a table, his thumbs bend in such a way as to securely hold a football with a tighter grip than one would normally possess.
Oh, and here’s the big thing about Kenny Pickett. I can say “Kenny Pickett,” welcome to the Steelers. Get yourself a Primanti Bros. sandwich and some shaved ice at Isaly’s. And look at the weapons you have at Pittsburgh, Kenny Pickett. You’ve got Najee Harris, who ran for 1,200 yards in his rookie season and he’s only going to get better. You’ve got targets like Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth, and THEY’RE only going to get better. And with the quarterback need addressed, the Steelers can now shore up the offensive line with future picks.
This is big. We got Kenny Pickett. The Steelers got Kenny Pickett. Kenny Pickett is our quarterback.
Damn, it feels good to say “Kenny Pickett” over and over again. It’s actually nice to refer to our quarterback by his government name.
Now let’s get this season started. I don’t even care if the Steelers end up on HBO’s Hard Knocks documentary series this year. It just means that the Steelers will show off their talents early and put fear into the quivering hearts of their AFC North opponents. No more quarterbacks that are four days older than dirt. No more backups that rip out our hearts in important games.
Oh, and Mitch Trubisky … look, I get it. You’ve just signed with the Steelers for two years. However, you may want to look up the name “Mike Glennon” on Wikipedia. Just sayin’ is all. And Mason Rudolph … you had some great games for us, but you might want to check out this USFL gig. Or maybe the XFL. There might be an Arena League team worthy of your talent.
But here’s the other thing. What if Malik Willis was still on the draft board when the Steelers next pick comes up?
Again, we could pick him in a later round.
And then I get my Neapolitan ice cream. Pickett and Willis.