Kenny Pickett already has the support of Hall of Fame quarterback and fellow Pitt Panther Dan Marino. Pickett also has the support of the player he will try to follow as the Pittsburgh Steelers' starting quarterback this summer.
Following his first day of rookie minicamp, Pickett told reporters that he recently received a call from Ben Roethlisberger, who 18 years ago began his journey as the Steelers' quarterback. The Steelers drafted Pickett with the 20th overall pick in this year's draft following Roethlisberger's retirement in January.
"He said he's always there for me if I have any questions or advice," Pickett said of Roethlisberger, via the Steelers' website. "He's an unbelievable player, Hall of Famer. He's a guy that I'll definitely use as a resource in the coming weeks here."
Roethlisberger is uniquely qualified to discuss life as a rookie quarterback. The former Miami (Ohio) Redhawk had arguably the best rookie season a quarterback has ever had in the NFL. After starting his rookie season as Tommy Maddox's backup, Roethlisberger entered his first regular season game in Baltimore in Week 2 following an injury to Maddox.
Roethlisberger was unable to rally the Steelers to victory that day, but he went on to win his next 13 starts while helping Pittsburgh win a franchise record 15 regular season games. Roethlisberger was named Offensive Rookie of the Year while setting an NFL record for the most consecutive regular season wins to begin a career.
Like Roethlisberger, Pickett won't be handed the starting job. But he will get a chance to compete with Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph during the course of the summer. Pickett, who said that he spoke with both quarterbacks shortly after being drafted, is embracing the prospect of being an immediate starter at the next level.
"Any competitor, absolutely,"a day after being drafted. "But I know how to be a great teammate. I know how to go about my business. I'm really excited to learn from those guys, like I said. All great people in the building. That's something I've known since I've been at Pitt. I'm excited to be a part of this organization, and compete and work toward winning a championship."
Speaking of championships, Pickett has the support of the quarterback who helped the Steelers win their two most recent Lombardi Trophies. Pickett also has the support of head coach Mike Tomlin, who developed a rapport with Pickett during his time at Pitt.
"He had a couple elements of his game that were really attractive when you're talking about the quarterback position," Tomlin recently said on The Rich Eisen Show. "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."
For Pickett, the Steelers' rookie minicamp is a chance for him to begin the acclimation process from college to pro football. It is also a chance for him to get acquainted his new teammates as he steadies himself for his upcoming position battle.
"I have no shot if I don't know what I'm doing," Pickett said. "I'm really dedicating myself to the playbook and learning every detail I possibly can. I want to have a smooth practice with these guys and hopefully everyone looks good."