Kenny Pickett isn’t concerned that Ben Roethlisberger didn’t initially support him as he became the new quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Instead, Pickett is focused on having Roethlisberger’s backing as he enters his second season in the NFL.
Pickett was asked about Big Ben’s comments after the Steelers’ first day of OTAs. Prior to the OTAs, Pickett was a guest on Roethlisberger’s podcast, which is when Roethlisberger shared his revelation.
“He’s honest and upfront about it,” Pickett said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s a fan now and he’s rooting for us. It was really cool to hear him say that and be in his house and meet his kids and his wife and get to know him a little bit better.
“We’ll continue to build that relationship and I’ll be in touch if I have any questions. I’m excited to go into my sophomore year with another guy by my side rooting for me.”
Roethlisberger’s initial hesitation to support Pickett had less to do with Pickett and more to do with the end of his Pittsburgh career. Roethlisberger feels the Steelers had already reached the conclusion that the 2021 season would be his last with the team. This obviously generated some mixed feelings for Roethlisberger, who opted to retire rather than continue his career elsewhere.
“I wouldn’t say I wanted Kenny to fail necessarily,” Roethlisberger said on his podcast. “But when someone comes in to replace you and I feel like I still have it, I hope he doesn’t come and leave, because then it’s like, ‘Ben who?’ right?
“But honestly when you started playing I found myself rooting for you more and more. … I think you are the future of this team. The fans are lucky to have you. … I transitioned to love and cheering you on. It’s been fun watching you. I like texting you after games. I’m a fan.
Roethlisberger’s admission was clearly appreciated by Pickett, who was 6 years old when Roethlisberger began his NFL career in 2004.
“It means the world,” Pickett said on the podcast. “A lot involves playing at halfback, as you know. … I had my chance to see him when I was at Pitt and now I’m playing and I’m trying to get to that [level].”
In addition to being starting quarterbacks for the Steelers, Roethlisberger and Pickett have other things in common. Both players were first-round picks that led their respective college teams to conference titles during their final seasons on campus. Both started their rookie seasons as reserves before quickly being thrust into the starting lineup during one regular season game. Both halfbacks played well but ultimately failed in their regular season debuts. Both players followed up on that loss by posting winning records during their rookie seasons.
Roethlisberger and Pickett also like the chance to command the two-minute attack, especially with the game on the line. Roethlisberger had several wins during his career, including his famous touchdown pass in the final seconds of Super Bowl XLIII. Pickett had four winning campaigns last season, which included passing touchdowns in back-to-back games. Roethlisberger specifically praised Pickett for his game-winning touchdown pass to George Pickett against the Raiders on Christmas Eve.
A funny moment occurred on the podcast when the quarterbacks were discussing the two-minute strike. Roethlisberger didn’t believe Pickett when he said he was playing for Najee Harris – not Steven Sims – on his game-winning pass against Baltimore in Week 16.
“I was watching your eyes,” Roethlisberger told Pickett. “Nobody throws the ball that hard to a running back that strong over there.”
Roethlisberger agreed with Pickett that he did not practice his infamous fake slide during Pitt’s ACC title victory over North Carolina. He also reiterated his belief in the Steelers’ new starting quarterback.
“It was fun watching you this year,” said Roethlisberger. “I think Pittsburgh has a good one on you.”