Ben Roethlisberger Reveals Texts to Kenny Pickett
Ben Roethlisberger texted Kenny Pickett immediately after the Steelers’ 24-20 loss to the Jets.
Roethlisberger, the Hall-of-Fame-bound Steelers quarterback of 18 years, wanted to touch base with the rookie Pickett. It was, after all, Pickett’s first taste of NFL action.
And it brought mixed results.
Pickett went 10-for-13 in one half of action, throwing for 120 yards… and three interceptions. It wasn’t all bad, though.
Pickett also provided two rushing touchdowns, but the Steelers ultimately lost at home to a seemingly inferior team in the Jets.
Hey, that’s not just me saying that. Tell ’em, Minkah Fitzpatrick.
“It’s frustrating losing to people that you know that you’re better than, more talented than,” Fitzpatrick told reporters after the Jets game.
Navigating such a moment can be tough for a rookie quarterback –– especially for a homegrown, first-round draft pick like Pickett –– and Roethlisberger wanted to ease the stress.
“Actually, Kenny just texted me a little bit ago,” Roethlisberger said during a recent episode of his Footbahlin’ with Ben Roethlisberger podcast. “I was texting him, just telling him to keep his head up.”
Pickett did keep his head up –– and that’s great for Steelers fans, because his first NFL pass couldn’t have gone much more poorly. On his first passing attempt, Pickett underthrew Chase Claypool downfield, resulting in an interception by Jets safety Jordan Whitehead.
Thankfully for Pickett, Roethlisberger, who threw an interception on his second career passing attempt, could relate.
“Someone just corrected me … I thought I threw an interception on my first NFL pass,” Roethlisberger said. “It was actually my second. But I did tell Kenny, ‘Hey, listen, I did it too. You’ll be fine.’ So that happened, but they still have life, they’re still going. He rushes for two touchdowns.”
While Pickett appeared to get over that initial blunder quickly, he then threw a second interception on a pass intended for tight end Pat Freiermuth along the sidelines with the Steelers driving.
That one, Roethlisberger said, is eating Pickett up just a bit more.
“And then I think he’s beating himself up a little bit on the [second] interception,” Roethlisberger said. “Kenny texted me like, ‘I gotta throw that one away.’ And I’m like, ‘Listen, you’re talking to a guy that rarely ever threw a ball away, so, you know, just go play with confidence.'”
Ultimately, Roethlisberger was caught off guard by Mike Tomlin’s decision to bring out Pickett.
“I was really surprised,” Roethlisberger said. “I heard the sideline reporter say, ‘I talked to Coach Tomlin at half. He said [something along the lines] of a change could happen.’ I was like, ‘No way.’ Not mid-game. And I always felt too, if you made the switch, you almost have to stay with it. You can’t go back and forth because you’ll crush confidence, and I just don’t think you can. I mean, you could. I don’t know if it’s the smart move.
“Now, you gotta stick with it.”
To Roethlisberger, the Steelers offense looked “stagnant” in general.
He’s not sure that’s any fault of Mitch Trubisky’s. That added to the surprise factor when Pickett trotted onto the field at Acrisure Stadium.
“When he came out, it was like, ‘Kenny’s coming!” Roethlisberger said. “Ashley [Roethlisberger’s wife] was out of the car, and I’m like, ‘Ashley, come over here!’ I knew she was going to want to watch it.
“And I just –– I was surprised. Because I didn’t think that Mitch was… To me, the whole offense was stagnant. It wasn’t like it was Mitch’s [fault]. I mean, they were this far away [makes hand gesture to show how close] from Diontae’s toe being on the line. The whole offense looked stagnant to me.
“They’re not running the ball real well, there’s nothing really going on, but to me, when you pull him –– I get what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to create a spark.”
That was the phrase after the game, too. Tomlin said in his post-game press conference he was looking to create “a spark” with Pickett. Does Roethlisberger feel the rookie accomplished that mission?
Yes –– but there’s a catch of sorts.
“Which I think it [the spark] happened,” Roethlisberger said. “You will get a spark. When you put someone new in there at a position like that, it’s going to create some sort of a spark. It’s going to create energy. It’s going to do that. So you going to naturally, a lot of times, get that like, ‘Let’s go!’ And you got that.
“But in my opinion, I didn’t know that it needed to happen. But Mike’s the coach. He did it. It seemed like it energized –– I heard that the stadium was crazy loud. It obviously energized the defense, the fans, the offense. Minkah gets that [near] pick-six. Everything’s kind of falling into place.”
Now, Roethlisberger believes the Steelers have to stick with Pickett.
But with the team’s upcoming schedule, he’s not so sure that’s the move, either.
“It’s going to be interesting to see where they go now. Are they going to go back [to Trubisky]?” Roethlisberger said. “I don’t think they can go back, but maybe Mike will. The games coming up, like Buffalo, Tampa, the Dolphins, and I think the Eagles are the next four. Like, that’s a crazy schedule.
“Do you want a vet in there or do you want a rookie? Did he create enough of a spark for the offense to keep it going? It seems like some of the guys felt that way. I just don’t think you can go back and forth now.”
Watch the full episode of Footbahlin’ with Ben Roethlisberger here: