Pickett didn’t statistically light the league on fire by any means as the top QB taken in the 2022 draft. He compiled a 7-5 rookie record while throwing for 2,404 yards, seven touchdowns and nine interceptions with a 63% completion rate.
He did show a knack for stealing yards with his feet, rushing for 237 yards and three scores on 55 carries, and he made his share of big-league throws, but the essence of what Robinson likely sees in the QB was most on display last year in the clutch.
Pickett was responsible for four game-winning drives, including three fourth-quarter comebacks, in 2022. Two of those came in Weeks 16 and 17 amid a second-half run that transformed a 3-6 record into a 9-8 finish. Although Pittsburgh narrowly missed a playoff berth, it extended coach Mike Tomlin’s streak of 16 seasons without a losing record.
More importantly, Pickett displayed a degree of comeback moxie that is a must-have in the DNA of a leader, and that bodes well for the future of the Steelers.
It’s the same gusto Pickett has taken to the offseason program that has one of his newest wide receivers heaping praise, claiming he’s “definitely beyond his years.”
“I was impressed when I got here,” Robinson said. “Watching somebody from the outside looking in, you definitely see the talent. Once you actually get in the facility and are able to be around Kenny, you see why he is successful.
“I am a person who watches a lot of football, and I was able to watch Kenny in college in some of those big games. When you have a guy like that who has a knack for winning, a knack for being the kind of player he has been, which is leading all of the groups he has been a part of. I don’t think that goes anywhere once a guy gets to the NFL. Once you put other guys around him, you start to see that player evolve into even more of a guy.”
Pickett’s evolution is important from a teamwide perspective. The Steelers ended last season on the outside looking in and will want to avoid missing the playoffs in consecutive years for just the third time since the turn of the century.
The expectation is for weapons like Robinson and third-round tight end Darnell Washington to join an already impressive cast that includes George Pickens, Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth and lift their young leader up, hoping he will in turn lift them to a postseason return.
On an individual level, Robinson is hoping to improve after struggling with just 71 catches for 749 yards and four TDs the past two campaigns.
The former Pro Bowler could be in for a renaissance of a year if he’s correct about Pickett’s leadership qualities — so too could the Steelers.