When it’s mattered most, Kenny Pickett has delivered for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Trailing 13-9 against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday, the Steelers needed a touchdown. With just 4:16 left in the fourth quarter, starting on the Steelers’ 20 after a quick three and out from the Ravens, Pickett knew what he needed to do. He needed a touchdown.
The Steelers had time, but the Ravens also hadn’t allowed a touchdown at home in 15 quarters. After completing 4-of-5 pass attempts for 54 yards to move the Steelers to the Ravens’ 10, Pickett had 56 seconds to break that streak.
With Baltimore’s Jason Pierre-Paul bearing down on him on the ensuing 3rd-and-8 play, Pickett avoided the would-be tackler, darted upfield and fired a beautiful ball on the run to star running back Najee Harris in the end zone to take the lead.
In GW drives against the Raiders and Ravens over the last two weeks, Kenny Pickett completed 10 of 13 pass attempts for 121 yards and two TDs.
— Karl Ludwig (@LudwigKarl8) January 2, 2023
Minkah Fitzpatrick’s sixth interception of the season sealed both a 16-13 win for the Steelers and Pickett’s second game-winning fourth quarter drive in as many games.
It wasn’t a perfect performance for Pickett, his inexperience on display with a handful of rookie mistakes throughout, but his grit, poise and the kind of outside-the-pocket play his predecessor made famous reflected legitimate growth.
A 16-13 win over the Ravens, on the road at M&T Bank Stadium, kept the Steelers’ playoff hopes alive. It was also a win against the Ravens on the road. That’s not easy.
A win against the Cleveland Browns at Acrisure Stadium next Sunday, along with wins from the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, ensures a playoff berth.
Kenny Pickett of the @steelers is the first rookie in NFL history to have a game-winning TD pass in the final minute of the 4th quarter in back-to-back games.
— OptaSTATS (@OptaSTATS) January 2, 2023
None of it would be possible without come-from-behind wins over the Ravens and Las Vegas Raiders over the last two weeks. On those two game-winning drives, Pickett has completed 12-of-15 pass attempts for 144 yards and two touchdowns:
- Raiders: 7-of-9 for 80 yards and a touchdown
- Ravens: 5-of-6 for 54 yards and a touchdown
Pickett completed 15-of-27 pass attempts for 168 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens, following up a 26-of-39 for 244 yards with a touchdown and interception showing against the Raiders last week, to complete his best two-week stretch yet.
In 12 games (leaving the first Ravens game early), he’s completed 232-of-360 (64%) pass attempts for 2,209 yards with six touchdowns to nine interceptions — and added 236 yards and three more touchdowns on the ground.
Pickett’s growth over the last two weeks alone, finally healthy and commanding the Steelers’ offense, has been a bright spot in an otherwise underwhelming season. It’s been the leading factor in a 2-6 season turning into an 8-8 season. And it’s not over.
After three interceptions in his NFL debut, three interceptions that resulted from unfortunate circumstances, Pickett’s growth when it comes to his decision-making and poise has been impressive. As has the fact that he’s steadily grown into a leader on the Steelers’ offense.
“I’ve always tried to tell (Pickett) to be himself, lay back there, and you can pick them apart,” Steelers’ wide receiver Dionate Johnson said following the win over the Ravens. “He can. I’m so happy for him. Man, that’s my quarterback.”
“Shoutout to Kenny P right here,” Harris said following the win over the Ravens. “Y’all see this rookie right here. He’s serving, man. He’s staying having good composure. Shoutout to my man Kenny.”
Najee Harris just snatched the mic and starting giving out shoutouts 😂pic.twitter.com/Ia1zuQ0DEi
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) January 2, 2023
“(Pickett’s) growing before our eyes,” Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward said following the win over the Ravens. “It’s really awesome to be (24) and be a quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. You’ve gotta love the way he’s leading that offense.”
There’s a long road for Pickett going forward, as his growth will feature plenty more peaks and valleys, but if he’s proven anything through the infancy of his NFL career, it’s that he’s made for when the lights shine brightest.
And the Steelers have a legitimate quarterback in their hands.