Former Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch talked on NFL Network about the Steelers drafting Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett and also wide receivers in Georgia’s George Pickens and Memphis’ Calvin Austin III.
Batch said that Steelers fans are really excited to see what Pickett can do, especially those that watched him excel at Pitt last season.
“They are a 10 around here in Pittsburgh,” Batch said. “This is something that Steelers fans have gotten excited about. A lot of talk radio leading up into the draft, these guys are all excited. Steelers nation is very excited, especially when you saw what Kenny Pickett was able to do at the University of Pittsburgh. They are excited around here.”
Batch spoke on what Pickett will expect to see at rookie minicamps and that how fast he learns the playbook and performs will indicate when he starts for the Steelers.
“Yeah they throw a lot at you at rookie minicamp,” Batch said. “They just want to see how much of the playbook you can absorb and if he can do that, that’ll give them indications heading into that first OTA practice to say ‘Hey, this guy could be potentially be ready to now fight for that No. 2 spot if not the starter reps.’
“So it’s going to be interesting to see how much he picks up over the weekend. Give it a chance next week to absorb, let it all kind of soak in and then ultimately when they prepare in about a week and half for that first OTA practice the reps will indicate what the thought process of this organization is moving forward.”
Batch harkened back to when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger came in as the Steelers’ first round draft pick in 2004 and how the Steelers wanted to put Roethlisberger in the best position to succeed, comparing it to Pickett coming in this upcoming season.
“Anytime you take a quarterback in the first round, you want to accelerate that learning curve,” Batch said “All I can do is go back when Ben Roethlisberger was a rookie in 2004. Bill Cowher and his coaching staff at that point did a really good job of trying to accelerate the learning curve. Didn’t expect him to play as early as he did, but injuries to myself, injuries to Tommy Maddox, they thrust him into the starting lineup in week three. Now it’s just going to be interesting to see now all these years later if Kenny Pickett can pick this offense up, I expect him to play early in the season.”
On the situation between newly signed free agent quarterback, Mitch Trubisky and Pickett fighting for the starting position, Batch said that Trubisky needs to succeed early, otherwise Pickett will assume the starting role.
“Well I think he can use that to his advantage because he was a young guy who didn’t know any better and was excited to play,” Batch said “But now the tables have turned. And now he’s in that similar situation he was a year ago. It’s a very tough situation to be in because you know if he doesn’t play well and get this team off to a 3-1, 4-0 start, everyone’s going to be clamoring behind him, “Okay is this the time you put Kenny Pickett in?” He now has a lot of tough shoes to fill. He just has to go out there and not worry about other things he can not control, learn the offense. They signed him as a starter in anticipation of him being there week one. So he just has to go out there and play the kind of football that he is accustomed to playing and hopefully those numbers result in wins.”
Batch spoke on Steelers offensive coordinator needs to use the weapons that they’ve drafted to improve their offense and that regardless of who is quarterback, they need to perform if Canada is to be successful in Pittsburgh.
“Well it starts with Matt Canada, the offensive coordinator here,” Batch said. “I mean this is a guy that said “I need weapons” and when you lose Juju Smith-Schuster, James Washington in free agency you need to fill that void. Yes Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, they can hold their own, but at the same time they need guys to compliment them. You turnaround and address the needs with George Pickens, Calvin Austin in round two and round four that let’s you know you’re bringing playmakers in. So Matt Canada has the weapons now ultimately he’s going to have the challenges of getting these guys involved in the game plan. But it starts more importantly with that offensive line up front. They struggled last year. It seems they addressed that in the offseason.”
In terms of George Pickens’ character and who he is as a person, Batch said that the Steelers general manger Kevin Colbert, who just retired, knew how to find gems in wide receivers throughout the draft during his tenure.
“When you look at what Kevin Colbert has done in the drafts in his time in Pittsburgh, he’s been able to find those gems in those later rounds,” Batch said. “Everyone talks about Antonio Brown in round six and you turn around at look some of the other players that he’s mentioned in those drafts when they weren’t quite frankly looking for a receiver. Emmanuel Sanders in the third round of that same draft in 2010. So Kevin Colbert again letting you know I am going to retool my receiver room and when you look at the gems he was able to pick up, I think he quite frankly addressed that in the draft.”