Skip to main content

Steelers' Cam Heyward encouraged by QB Kenny Pickett's offseason efforts entering 2023

Kenny Pickett's rookie season began on the bench but ended in triumph.

In between, Pickett produced plenty of thrills that left Pittsburgh believing he can be the club's long-term solution at quarterback. One Steeler, though, would like it if the success didn't require so much stress.

"If you look at December and January, anytime it wasn't going his way, it never felt like he was out of sorts, or it felt like the moment was too big for him," veteran defensive end Cam Heyward said during an appearance on the 3 and Out podcast. "You could look at the Baltimore game and, you know, I don't think they've given up a score in the fourth quarter for some like amount of quarters, which was crazy. He goes down and puts together a drive and you just see here; there it wasn't just one person. He was feeding everybody.

"Then you look at that Christmas game versus the Raiders and that was a little bit of the same. So, every time we've needed a big drive at the end of a game, he was able to answer the call and answer the bell. I just look forward to him not waiting for the fourth quarter, let's get off the bus doing that. I think we'll have a lot more success that way."

Pickett officially took over as the Steelers' starter after the first month of the season, replacing Mitch Trubisky in Week 4 before making his first start in Week 5. The going was initially rough, with Pickett throwing eight interceptions in his first four games, including his debut appearance in relief of Trubisky.

Something changed, though, after Pittsburgh's Week 9 bye. Pickett engineered his first game-winning drive of his career in a 20-10 win over New Orleans in Week 10, and from that point on, he threw just one more interception the rest of the way, posting a 5-1 TD-INT ratio in Weeks 10-18 (he missed Pittsburgh's Week 15 win over Carolina).

Thanks in part to Pickett's success, the Steelers nearly won their way into the postseason. Though Pittsburgh didn't get the outside help it needed, the Steelers finished with a resounding 28-14 win over Cleveland, ending the season with a 9-8 record and plenty of reason to feel optimistic entering 2023.

"I don't like to buy too much stock into the offseason, but I like to think we addressed a lot of needs and brought in the right people," Heyward said. "Going into the second year of our quarterback, the sky's the limit for him. I think Kenny's done a tremendous job to get us to this point. But I know he's chomping at the bit for more. He's a hungry quarterback and to surround him with a lot of moving parts, whether that's another wide receiver in Allen Robinson or more depth at the O-line, and I think just solidifying that group can do wonders for him. If he has time back, there and able to process a little bit more, I think he's going to have a lot of success going forward."

Pickett has a talented running mate in fellow 2022 rookie George Pickens, and the Steelers left no stone unturned in the offseason, adding a veteran receiver in Robinson and drafting Georgia tight end Darnell Washington. Pickett will undoubtedly have weapons to work with to return the Steelers to prominence; Now, it's up to him to take the next step in his development after an encouraging debut campaign.

According to Heyward, all signs are pointing toward improvement in 2023.

"I think he's asking a lot more questions," Heyward said. "Higher level questions, it's not just 'what I'm I seeing here' you know 'what different looks I'm I getting.' ... You know, having that year under his belt is really going to move the group forward. The great thing about it is that we have a guy like Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph, who have experience starting in this league so that room consists of three good offensive minds that are going to be pushing the quarterback position forward."

Related Content