MOBILE, Ala. — For five years, Kenny Pickett has been watching the Pittsburgh Steelers practice.
Now, he might be joining them.
Pickett is leaving Pitt and heading to the NFL, a process that will start in earnest this week leading up to the Senior Bowl. Pickett said he’s already have five hours’ worth of interviews with NFL teams before the first practice of the week on Tuesday, and he will certainly have more before the week is up.
One of the teams that could be in the market for Pickett’s services is the Steelers, who need to replace retiring quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and hold the No. 20 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Of course, the Steelers need a lot less of an introduction to Pickett than other teams. Pitt and the Steelers sharing practice fields can be beneficial for both sides.
“We see how they go about their business, how they work, go through their walkthroughs, how professional they are,” Pickett said. “As a young kid coming into Pitt, freshman and sophomores can see how things are supposed to be done on their practice field.”
For the Steelers, the arrangement means they’ve seen more of Pickett than each of their 31 competitors. That familiarity has bred other connections as well. The Steelers hired Matt Canada as their offensive coordinator after he got on the map with a strong 2016 season as Pitt’s coordinator. He recruited one quarterback in his time with the Panthers, which was Pickett.
When Pat Narduzzi needed a coordinator in 2019, he tapped former Steelers quarterback coach Mark Whipple, who had worked with Roethlisberger as a young player in Pittsburgh and then went on to mentor Pickett for three seasons.
“[Coach Tomlin] is a great guy,” Pickett said. “I’m obviously very familiar with Coach Canada, as well. He recruited me to Pitt. So I have a great relationship with them.
“Obviously, Ben’s a Hall of Famer. He had an unbelievable career. He was coached by Coach Whipple, which is pretty cool to be coached by Coach Whip who had Ben and then I got to learn from him. A lot of the things he taught Ben, he was teaching me in these past three seasons at Pitt.”
That connectivity, along with having already made his home in Pittsburgh for the last five years, would leave Pickett extremely comfortable if the Steelers were the team to call his name this April, even if it means being the one to replace a franchise icon.
“The possibility of getting drafted there would be unbelievable,” Pickett said. “Pittsburgh is really my second home, so that would kind of be a dream. It started when I got recruited to Pitt and maybe at the next level. We’ll see what happens.”