Troy Aikman was a Kenny Pickett skeptic at the start of “Monday Night Football.” But after a strong performance from the rookie passer, the Hall of Fame quarterback became a fan.
In other words, Pickett won Aikman over.
Pickett came though with his best game of the season in the Steelers’ 24-17 win over the Colts, capping his evening with an 11-play scoring drive that catapulted Pittsburgh ahead. Overall, Pickett completed 20-of-28 passes for 174 yards.
“He was decisive. Threw the ball accurately. Made some really good decisions,” said Aikman. “Did some really good things.”
That was quite a change from how Aikman talked about Pickett earlier in the game. While Aikman didn’t rip Pickett outright, it’s apparent he harbored doubts about whether the University of Pittsburgh product can stick in the NFL.
“There’s things about Kenny Pickett that I really like and there’s other things where you say, ‘Yeah, he’s a young quarterback, and it’s all part of the growing process of playing the position,’” said Aikman. “I do think it was interesting, because most quarterbacks, including myself, would say the biggest adjustment is the speed of the game, and he said it was more the volume of defense he’s seen.”
During the pregame show, Aikman said the “jury is still out” on Pickett.
One of the biggest points in Pickett’s favor Monday was his opponent. Matt Ryan looked every bit of 37 years old, leading Aikman to noticeably express his disgust with the Colts’ woeful offensive attack.
When they failed to use their timeouts during their final drive, Aikman laid the blame at Ryan, and not head coach Jeff Saturday, his former ESPN colleague.
Few people are more attune with the difficulty of quarterbacking than Aikman, who went 1-15 in his rookie season and completed just 55 percent of his passes. Pickett has dealt with his issues, though not on that scale.
Ultimately, Pickett understands the game, and that may be his biggest advantage. Ryan Clark, a frequent Steelers critic, said as much after the contest.
“Kenny Pickett is showing you that if you understand the intangibles of playing the quarterback position, you can be successful,” he said.
It was a successful night for Pickett, and even his skeptics saw it.