In many ways, Friday probably felt very familiar to Kenny Pickett. A quick drive to the South Side, putting on a practice jersey and walking out to the fields at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
But there was one difference.
“It’s a shorter walk,” Pickett joked.
Indeed it was. In the past, the Steelers first-round pick would have to walk past the Steelers’ two practice fields to reach Pitt’s. On this day, however, as the Steelers went though there first day of rookie minicamp, Pickett put on his new black and gold and led an offense full of first and second-year players through the day.
“It was great,” he said. “I’m just trying to learn a lot of these guys names. I really haven’t gotten a chance to meet anybody. We’ve been in meetings. I want to call guys out to help and stuff and talk, and I have no clue who I’m talking to.”
Though much of his surroundings are familiar, there are some major changes. Pickett is diving into a new playbook under offensive coordinator Matt Canada, and doing so in structured stages.
“We’re doing a good job of taking it a step at a time really, taking it slow,” he said. “I’ve got no shot if I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just really dedicating myself to the playbook and learning every detail. Possibly can to give ourselves the best shot to operate out here.
“It’s all mental. It’s know ing what I have to do, knowing the responsibilities of everybody else on the offense, and learning the defenses in the NFL. I’m excited to dedicate myself to it and obsess over trying to be the best I can be.”
Pickett has also touched base with other Steelers quarterbacks — old and new — and had positive conversations with each.
“I heard from all the quarterbacks that are here and Ben (Roethlisberger) called me up recently,” Pickett said. “That was awesome. He said he’s always there for me if I have any questions or advice. He’s an unbelievable player, a Hall of Famer. He’s a guy that I’ll definitely use as a resource in the coming weeks here.”
Pickett’s star status in Western Pennsylvania was pretty high before he was taken 20th overall two weeks ago. Now though, he’s a pro, and could be the face of the franchise for years to come. The 23-year-old is trying to take it all in stride.
“It’s definitely a little different,” he said. “But I love the city, it’s my second home here and I feel really comfortable in the City of Pittsburgh.”
Pickett was a certified leader at Pitt for multiple seasons. Now he’s trying to impart that on a new group, and could be seen doing just that Friday, taking time to talk with players and congratulate them after individual sessions.
But, while the day was loose and a happy one for Pickett and his new teammates, he seems dialed in.
“I’m just being myself,” he said. “I know how to operate. I know what it’s supposed to look like at a high level. So if it’s not that, I voice that opinion and make sure that we’re trying to get to the same page.”