INDIANAPOLIS — Kenny Pickett didn’t hesitate when he saw what the Indianapolis Colts’ defense had given the Steelers near the goal line in the fourth quarter of what became a 24-17 Pittsburgh victory on Monday night. He knew exactly how he wanted to attack for the game-winning touchdown.
As Pickett came to the sidelines for an injury timeout before a critical third down from the Colts’ 2-yard-line with the Steelers down a point, he told coach Mike Tomlin exactly what he wanted to do.
Tomlin signed off, and the play developed exactly as Pickett envisioned. Benny Snell had open space around left end and dashed into the end zone a split second before Indianpolis’ Tony Brown and Bobby Okereke could converge on him, giving Pittsburgh the lead and showing how much Pickett’s grasp on the offense has progressed.
“Kenny said ‘I want to run this,’ and to see that confidence on third and goal from the 2 is big,” Steelers center Mason Cole said. “It’s exciting to see, and it shows who he is as a leader and the command he has on the field.”
Given the game situation, Pickett had no doubt that this was the time to call for the handoff to Snell. With the Steelers just two yards from the goal line and time winding down, Pittsburgh sat firmly in four-down territory, which Pickett figured represented the perfect time to take charge of the game.
“Coach T has a lot of confidence in myself and asks me what I like and what I don’t like,” Pickett said. “I feel like that play, from watching some tape all week, I felt like we could give it a shot. I felt really confident with that play, and I’m really happy that we got it.”
Pickett’s confidence showed up again when the Steelers converted the two-point conversion moments later. When the Colts’ defensive line forced him out of the pocket, the rookie kept his poise and rolled to his right, leading George Pickens along with him. Pickett then victimized Brown again, zipping a pass by his dive and into Pickens’ arms to give the Steelers some more breathing room.
“With the defender’s back to you, you can kind of place the ball where you want,” Pickett said. “Then George has to make the play. I was happy he jabbed inside and went out, and low and away is usually a safe bet to give him the best chance to make a play. He went down and he made a hell of a play.”
The same was true for Pickett, who used his smarts rather than his physical skills to give the Steelers the edge. For a young quarterback who’s getting used to the scrutiny that comes with being a starter in the NFL, that’s a big step forward.
“He was just making the right decisions and being poised in the pocket,” Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson said. “That gets everybody going and makes everybody want to play hard when we’re doing the right thing and the ball is moving in the right direction. He’s shown flashes of that, and he’s just got to take the next step.”