For a Change, The Pressure is On The Steelers’ Kenny Pickett
After a miserable opener against San Francisco, Monday night looms as a revelation regarding the second-year QB’s ability to rise to the occasion.
It’s gonna get better for Kenny Pickett and the Steelers, in part because it can’t get much worse than it was for openers and in part because Pickett and the Steelers have such a bounce-back coming.
That, at least, is Mike Tomlin’s theory.
“You know, there’s football justice,” the Steelers’ head coach maintained. “When you work at it, man, you generally get good things that come out of it.
“(Pickett) is a guy that’s fully committed. This is a guy that works his tail off and largely, man, those guys create their own fortune. And so, that’s my general tenor about the trajectory of him and his career. But also, in the short term, it’s reasonable to expect guys that work the way he works and prepare the way he prepares to bounce back from negative performance.
“Individually and collectively, I expect this group to do similar things.”
For his part, Pickett isn’t counting on football justice or the football gods or any other mystical entity to resurrect his game from the dumper.
Which is where it was, uncharacteristically, against San Francisco.
He wasn’t the only problem against the 49ers.
But when the quarterback is that far off, well, it’s tough to offensively coordinate around that.
No matter how much you hate Matt Canada.
Pickett’s stated response this week was a vow to do what he does, to keep grinding.
“I mean, I believe you got to go get it,” Pickett insisted. “No one’s going to hand it to you. It’s not going to be easy. I don’t think you just kind of roll out there and hope it happens.
“Like (Tomlin) said, you got to put the work in to make it happen and go execute and play. So, that’s all I want to do. You know, have fun, go out there and play, cut it loose. You know, see what happens.”
That see-what-happens aspect is what’s most compelling about Monday night’s hosting of Cleveland.
The Steelers need a win and Pickett needs to be better for them to get it.
But for the first time in a career that’s still in its infancy, he’ll be expected to deliver in the face of adversity.
Pickett has played poorly before (last year’s game at Miami comes to mind).
But when he was playing as a rookie after getting thrown into the fire in-season to lead an offense that was transitioning along with him, such missteps were forgiven.
His on-the-job training didn’t include great expectations.
It was more about growth than results.
This is different. Pickett played so well and appeared in such command during OTAs, training camp and the preseason there was every reason to suspect his development had accelerated.
There was every reason to expect better, much better, than he delivered against San Francisco.
If he is who we thought he was, he’ll bounce back against the Browns.
Even if he still isn’t sure why his game temporarily betrayed him in the first place.
“Can’t explain why,” Pickett offered. “You know, felt good going into it. It happens when you’re playing in the NFL.
“I’m itching to get back out there on Monday and play.”
I’m itching to see if he’s as determined, after a stinker, to “have fun, go out there and play, cut it loose,” as he’s seemingly always been.
And if there really is such a thing as football justice.