Ben Roethlisberger admits he underestimated Kenny Pickett
Last week carried serious playoff implications for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who needed to beat AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens on the road in order to stay alive in the playoff chase. In frigid temperatures, Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett led his fourth game-winning drive of the season to give Pittsburgh the 16-13 victory on the road, becoming one game-winning drive shy of tying Ben Roethlisberger‘s franchise rookie record of five set in 2004.
And Roethlisberger had some kind words to say about Pickett on his podcast Footballin’ this week, when he admitted he underestimated the first-round pick.
“I severely, in my opinion, underestimated Kenny,” Roethlisberger said. “I think he throws the ball better than I thought, he runs it way better than I expected and thought his decision making is really, really good. His leadership, his toughness, [he has] just enough of an edge to him it looks like. So, I apologize, not that I made this vocal to anybody else, but in my own head.”
And Pickett, who heard Roethlisberger’s appraisal, was very appreciative of Roethlisberger’s comments.
“It means the world to me to earn his respect,” Pickett said to The Athletic‘s Mark Kaboly earlier this week. “I have a long way to go, but I appreciate him saying that. It is special that a Hall of Fame quarterback like that would say that.”
Pickett’s numbers may not all be that inspiring, but he has definitely turned plenty of heads — like Roethlisberger — as a rookie. He’s completed 64.4 percent of his attempts for 2,209 yards, six touchdowns and nine interceptions. He’s eclipsed 250 passing yards three times, including a 327-yard effort against the Buffalo Bills in his first career start.
He’s not likely to win Rookie of the Year with New York Jets receiver Garrett Wilson, Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III and Green Bay Packers wideout Christian Watson likely the frontrunners. But that shouldn’t be an indictment on Pickett, who is now on the brink of squeaking Pittsburgh into the seventh-and-final playoff spot in the AFC.
Pittsburgh needs to the beat the Cleveland Browns with subsequent losses by the New England Patriots (against Buffalo) and the New York Jets (against the Miami Dolphins) in order to make the playoffs. It’s doable, and one thing we’ve learned so far with the 24-year-old quarterback is to never say never.
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