PITTSBURGH — The Kenny Pickett The era is officially here.
The Pittsburgh Steelers listed the 2022 first-round pick as the starter on the depth chart for Sunday’s game at the Buffalo Bills.
Pickett is the first freshman to start for the team since Devlin Hodges started six games during the 2019 season.
Looking for a spark, coach Mike Tomlin inserted Pickett instead Mitch Trubisky The Steelers lost 24-20 to the New York Jets. Pickett responded, completing 10 of 13 attempts for 120 yards, three interceptions and two rushing touchdowns.
“With Kenny in there, we were able to be aggressive,” the tight end Pat Freiermuth said Monday. “Obviously, some mistakes will happen, some tipped balls and all kinds of things, but we have to continue to work past it and be Kenny, especially since he is a young guy.”
In his regular-season debut, Pickett averaged 9.2 yards per attempt and 13.2 air yards per attempt, more than Trubisky’s season averages of 5.6 yards per attempt and 9.9 air yards per attempt.
Before entering Sunday’s game, Pickett had not worked with the first-team offense. Perhaps his most impressive throw came when he completed an 18-yard pass to Freermouth over the middle over the Jets defensive tackle. Quinn Williams flew unhindered towards him. Pickett threw the pressure in his face and smiled at Williams as he got off the field.
“He played with swagger,” the wide receiver Deontay Johnson said. “When he comes to the cage, he demands, ‘Cry, come in, listen.'” It’s our job to help.”
Pickett, 24, is the first first-round quarterback selected by the Steelers since the company selected Ben Roethlisberger in 2004.
The Steelers (1-3) drafted Pickett 20th overall with the intent of eventually making him a franchise quarterback, but he’s ranked No. 1 on the depth chart behind Trubisky. 3 as a quarterback — signed in free agency — and a long-term backup Mason Rudolph.
Pickett struggled in the early weeks of camp, but completed 13 of 15 attempts for 95 yards with two touchdowns in the first preseason game — including the game-winning drive against the Seattle Seahawks. He finished the preseason with an 80.6 completion percentage and averaged 7.3 yards per attempt.
The Steelers, however, were determined to start Trubisky because of his veteran experience and leadership, and the team even voted him captain.
Trubisky and the offense struggled through the first 3 1/2 weeks, and their offensive output fell near the bottom of the league, averaging 18 points per game.
Although Tomlin preached patience and pointed to encouraging signs of offensive improvement after Thursday night’s loss to the Jets, he ultimately chose to insert his rookie at halftime of the game, and now, he’s sticking with him.
“I think [I have] A little edge for me,” Pickett said. “I want it to rub off on everybody. I want us to have an attitude while on the field. I’m excited to get back to work and get us back on track.”
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