Steelers players confident if Pickett gets call vs Buffalo

No decision has been made on starting QB, but players indicate rookie will be the choice

When Kenny Pickett came into Sunday’s game against the Jets, the thought was that the Steelers’ quarterback position would be his for the foreseeable future. But that’s not confirmed. At least not yet.

That said, Pittsburgh's players seem ready if the rookie gets the nod.

Pickett passed for 120 yards, but was intercepted three times in the 24-20 loss Sunday. He did run for a pair of touchdowns, however, and a noticeable change in energy occurred when he entered the game to begin the second half.

“I did feel a shift from the crowd,” guard James Daniels said. “We were running the same plays. I just thought we were just like executing them better. It was nice to get the crowd behind us and get some momentum because momentum is big, especially for our offense when we're struggling. And having the momentum of the crowd behind us really did help us.”

Pickett was intercepted on his first series of the game when attempting a deep ball to Chase Claypool. But the aggressiveness seemed to be a welcomed sight for an offense that has so badly lacked just that.

“You see when he came in, he was taking shots down the field, taking chances, giving us the opportunity to make a play on the ball,” wide receiver Diontae Johnson said. “And you want that because you never know if we're going to come down with the ball or not. Him being able to give us a chance, it shows that he trusts us.

“He played with swagger. When he comes in the huddle, he demands like, ‘huddle up, come in, listen,’ everybody respects him. He's a great player. He's young, going to continue to learn and develop. It's our job to make him look good and help him stay comfortable while he's out there.”

Pickett had some flaws, no question. His three incompletions were interceptions. Two of those picks came on balls that hot off the hands of intended receivers, and another was on a Hail Mary.

But the rookie did attempt to stretch the field. He and starter Mitch Trubisky attempted the same amount of passes, and Pickett racked up 36 more yards, despite coming into the game cold.

“Kenny was just going in there and letting it fly,” tight end Pat Freiermuth said. “I don't think you ever want to be held back on offense. I think we always want to continue to take shots and try and be the aggressor, and I think with Kenny in there we were able to be the aggressor.

“Obviously some mistakes are going to happen with tipped balls and all that kind of stuff, but we’ll continue to work past that and be there for Kenny, especially since he’s a young guy."

More than his aggressiveness, Steelers offensive players were impressed with the young quarterback’s poise in a tricky situation.

“His demeanor was pretty confident,” Daniels said. “He did seem comfortable with stepping in. I'm glad, because I look at back when I was a rookie, it's tough playing. Seeing how his demeanor is a lot better than mine when I was a rookie, that's pretty cool to see."

Now the test for the Steelers will be to replicate that spark, that energy, on Sunday when the team heads to Buffalo.

It’s not known yet if Pickett will start the game — Mike Tomlin will potentially announce that Tuesday during his weekly press conference — but the vibe from Pittsburgh’s players Monday was that they’re expecting the rookie to be under center for the Steelers’ toughest test to date.

The Steelers, however, seem to believe in Pickett, and feel that they can go to Buffalo and win, even if it’s with a rookie making his first career start.

“He’s mentally there,” Freiermuth said. “He’s mentally ready for this.”

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