While he would surely trade it for a win, Kenny Pickett nonetheless made history during his regular season debut. Pickett, when the Steelers travel to Buffalo on Sunday, set two records during his regular season debut this past weekend against the Jets.
The Steelers' first-round pick became the first quarterback in NFL history to run for two touchdowns in his debut (h/t Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette). He also set an NFL record by throwing the most passes in a game (13) without one hitting the ground, via ESPN Stats & Info.
Pickett replaced Mitch Trubisky as the start of the second half of Sunday's game against the Jets. His 1-yard touchdown run gave the Steelers a 13-10 lead midway through the third quarter. His 2-yard score on Pittsburgh's ensuing possession gave the home team a 10-point lead with 13:36 to play.
While the Steelers' lead appeared safe, the Jets ultimately rallied to spoil Pickett's party. After Zach Wilson directed a Jets scoring drive that cut their deficit to three points, New York took the lead for good on a score that was set up by Michael Carter II's interception of Pickett on a pass intended for tight end Pat Freiermuth.
Pickett finished the game 102 yards on 10 of 13 passing. Pickett threw three interceptions, hence his NFL record of not having a pass hit the ground. His first pick came on his first attempt, a deep throw to Chase Claypool that was was corralled by Jordan Whitehead after Claypool was unable to secure the pass. His third pick occurred on a Hail Mary to end the game.
It wasn't perfect, but Pickett showed promise in his debut. He led the Steelers on arguably their best drive of the season to date, a 12-play, 82-yard drive that culminated with his second touchdown run. Pickett displayed toughness on the drive when he completed an 18-yard strike to Freiermuth on a third-and-8 play despite getting clobbered by Jets defensive lineman Quinnen Williams.
"It's not tough," Pickett said afterwords when asked about making a throw under duress. "It's in the job description. It is what it is. I'm a quarterback. That's my job. So, I told those guys, I'll stand in there. I don't really care. I know they'll get it right. My job is to stand in there and make those."
Along with Freiermuth, Pickett has developed a quick rapport with fellow rookie George Pickens, who caught six passes for 102 yards on Sunday.
"I feel like the whole crowd was cheering him on," Pickens said of Pickett after the game. "We were already ready to go. It's just next man up. We were already ready, though."
While Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has not yet made the switch official, it's clear that Pickett has the support of his teammates should be receive the nod to start Sunday in Buffalo.
"He brought us a spark," Freiermuth said, via Josh Rowntree of 93.7 The Fan. "The stadium, the fans, us. He did a great job."
"When he came in we were just more efficient," receive Diontae Johnson added. "You could see the energy. He played with swag. That makes us want to play for him. We have to get him better, and prepare for next week."