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Steelers OTAs Takeaways: Kenny Pickett Pops, Austin Impresses



Steelers OTAs QB Kenny Pickett

PITTSBURGH — On Thursday, the Steelers took the field for their final OTAs session, and to say it was a spirited session would be putting it lightly. What happened during the practice and what can we take away from it?

Kenny Pickett Pops

You’ve heard about Kenny Pickett off the field this season with his leadership. But on the field on Thursday, he made a number of plays that stood out. The biggest one was a touchdown that Connor Heyward confirmed occurred. As Heyward described it, Pickett fit the ball into a tight window in the back of the endzone, while Heyward made a phenomenal toe-tapping grab between two defenders.

“It was on the back line and Kenny did a great job of putting it up top,” Heyward said. “You know, Kenny did a great job in the redzone of putting the ball where no one else could get it. He put it the ball where it had to me.”

Heyward said that every day the team is impressed by him and the entire locker room is rallying around Pickett for his leadership. Then, there was that throw that seemingly popped everyone’s eyes to Heyward today.

Austin Finds Paydirt

Speaking of guys gaining buzz, Calvin Austin has made sure to stand out at Steelers OTAs. That has not been an issue for him as guys have raved about him. However, on Thursday, he got a play that might have been his best yet. Austin confirmed to me that he caught a touchdown on Thursday and broke down the play.

“Yeah, simple crossing route,” Austin said. “That was the redzone and I knew it was man, so with a crossing route it was running away. One thing I know I can do good is run. The route was there, the play ball was there, it was a great play.”

Fighting for a role on the team, Austin showed out at training camp last year but suffered a lisfranc injury that forced him to miss the entire season. But don’t let that fool you, it seems that Austin is gaining a lot of buzz, and rightfully so.

Graham Challenges Fitzpatrick

One of the highlights of today was during the Steelers’ mock tackling drill, with no pads. Alfonzo Graham confirmed that he challenge Minkah Fitzpatrick in the drill. He wanted him to face the best, but once the rep occurred Fitzpatrick simply stunned Graham with a hard enough hit that qualified as Graham’s ‘welcome to the NFL’ moment.

“That was definitely my welcome to the NFL moment,” Graham said. “But I want to compete and be against the best. There’s not fear there. I want to see the level I have to get to play a long time in this league.”

That takes a lot of fortitude to even make that declaration, but Graham told me he would do it all over again and might even do it again. Make no mistake, most other guys would not do that to make a name for themselves. But Graham did and I’m sure that will be appreciated by his coaches. Jaylen Warren saw it, too, and he commends the guy, but knows he just found out what the NFL is like.

“He found out,” Warren said. “I wouldn’t even do that now.”

Barcoo Makes Play

If you are looking for other cornerbacks to make a presence on the team, maybe Luq Barcoo could be that guy. He confirmed on Thursday that he nabbed an interception on Wednesday. Barcoo is known for grabbing interceptions and did that all the way back to his days at San Diego State. But he hopes that can be something that powers him forward toward a roster spot with the Steelers.

“So as far as the interception, I did get an interception yesterday was my first one, but I’m just trying to get acclimated to the playbook and once you get acclimated to the playbook and get comfortable, it allows you to play fast,” Barcoo said. “I’m pretty much approaching that point right now, so I’m able to put myself in positions to make plays on the ball.”

With a loaded cornerback room already, Barcoo has an uphill battle to the roster. However, if he can make some plays and show off versatility, there is a path for him to make some noise during training camp and beyond Steelers OTAs.


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