Kenny Pickett takes Big Ben’s advice on the pressure to fill his shoes: ‘Manage my business and play the game like I know how to play’


For the first time in nearly decades, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a new quarterback heir in Kenny Pickett, their first-round pick. He’s the first quarterback the team has taken in the first two rounds since they drafted just-retired Ben Roethlisberger, 11th overall in 2004. The man Pickett is supposed to to be the heir.

Despite the great success Roethlisberger brought to Pittsburgh — he is widely considered the best quarterback in team history and a first-round Hall of Famer when eligible — Pickett understands that his path to the Success isn’t about trying to be the next Big Ben, but rather about being himself, that’s precisely what Roethlisberger told him.

“I had a great conversation with him. He just told me to be myself and be the best player I can be and it’s as simple as that,” he told Aditi Kinkhabwala in a segment of his We Need to Talk show airing tonight “The noise outside of everyone watching this will make it the way they want to turn it. But I just know I have to run my business and play the game the way I know how to play , and everything else will take care of itself”.

A five-year Pitt Panthers alum, Pickett had a stellar senior season in 2021, leading the team to an ACC title and going 11-2 heading into the Peach Bowl game including their starting quarterback and other players opted out.

He threw for 4,319 yards on the year, completing 334 of 497 passes for a school-record 42 touchdowns for just seven interceptions. He also rushed for five more touchdowns, among the 20 rushing touchdowns he had in his college career.

The Steelers had their pick of the litter in the 2022 NFL Draft in terms of available quarterback prospects, as none of them were taken when they were 20th overall. No one had taken Malik Willis, or Sam Howell, or Matt Corral, or anyone else. Their decision that Pickett was their man was therefore left unambiguous.

That doesn’t mean he’ll definitely be “the guy” as a rookie, though. They signed veteran Mitchell Trubisky in free agency as a potential bridge starter, and right now he’s the favorite to start. But Roethlisberger was supposed to open his rookie season in 2004 as a third-string quarterback, after all. They have no intention of rushing him. Their investment is long term. The one they’re hoping for will end with a few more titles and a gold jacket.


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