USA Today

Kenny Pickett's hand size was a hot-button topic ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft. Fortunately for Pickett, his hand size didn't prevent him from being the first quarterback selected in the draft. The former Pitt Panther and reigning ACC Player of the Year will stay in Pittsburgh after he was selected by the Steelers with the 20th overall pick. 

Pickett's new coach, longtime Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, was asked whether or not Pickett's hand size was something Pittsburgh put much stock into leading up to the draft. 

"I potentially was capable of buying into that if I didn't watch him play college football in Pittsburgh, and dealing with the elements that comes with playing in this environment," Tomlin said on The Rich Eisen Show. "You can get into the hand size thing, or you can just look at how he performed in a variety of conditions, and we have those conditions here in Pittsburgh. So, there's very little speculation from our perspective about how he might handle the ball in inclement weather, wet days, etcetera."

If Tomlin had any questions regarding Pickett's physical limits, they were erased during Pitt's home win over North Carolina last fall in a torrential downpour. With Tomlin watching from the stands, Pickett threw three touchdown passes that included the game-winning score in overtime. 

"It was raining pretty good that night, (and he) had no issues," Tomlin said. "(His hand size) was probably less of an issue for us just in terms of the draft chatter." 

Because they share a facility with the Panthers, Tomlin and the Steelers had a bird's eye view of Pickett and the progress he made during his college career. That unique opportunity undoubtedly helped the Steelers feel more comfortable in their decision to draft him in the first round. Tomlin said he was able to see Pickett's "growth and development, not only as a player, but as a person, as a leader."

"He does the things that comes with the quarterback position in a very natural way," Tomlin said, "whether it's dealing with and leading teammates, whether it's media responsibilities and so forth, none of that appears to be a chore for him. It happens in a very natural way, and I think that's an asset to him.

"He and I had an opportunity, really over the course of three or four years, to establish a real friendly and formal relationship and kind of get to know each other without the speed dating component of the draft process."

Tomlin is also a fan of Pickett's tangible skills that allowed him to break Dan Marino's school single season and career touchdown passing records. Pickett put up prolific numbers last fall, as he threw for over 4,300 yards and 42 touchdowns while leading the Panthers to their first ACC title. 

"He had a couple elements of his game that were really attractive when you're talking about the quarterback position," Tomlin said. "His ability to anticipate and his professional level accuracy. Oftentimes, the college guys have a ways to go in those areas. When we talk about someone having a high floor at the quarterback position, usually it's because they're pro ready in those areas, and he was." 

Tomlin said that Pickett will compete with Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph to be the teams' starting quarterback coming out of training camp. Each quarterback brings something unique to the competition. Pickett brings the promise of a first-round pick. Trubisky is a former Pro Bowler with over 50 career NFL starts (including playoff experience) under his belt. Rudolph is the Steelers' longest-tenured quarterback as he enters his fifth season with the team. 

While Steelers fans don't need any added incentive to look forward to training camp, Tomlin added some when saying that he expects a highly competitive position battle from his quarterbacks. 

"I expect it to be fierce, because I know all three guys," Tomlin said. "I don't expect anyone to take a back seat. The challenge is from a structure standpoint. Are we providing enough of a platform for all the guys to show what they're capable of? That's going to be the challenge component of it.

"I'm excited about watching these guys compete, just like I am at any position where you've got viable options. We'll proceed with that understanding that it's going to be challenging from an organization standpoint, but it's a good challenge, and I'm excited about watching those guys perform."