Late in the first half of the Steelers' preseason game against the Jaguars, Kenny Pickett did something every NFL head coach loves to see. The Steelers' rookie quarterback parlayed a key defensive stop into a touchdown that gave Pittsburgh a 7-6 halftime lead.
Pickett, who entered the game on Pittsburgh's fourth offensive possession, starting his second drive on the Jaguars' 37-yard-line after strong safety Damontae Kazee stopped Jaguars tight end Evan Engram just short of the first down marker. Pickett quickly took advantage, firing a 17-yard strike to Diontae Johnson before connecting with tight end Pat Freiermuth on gains of 11 and 24 yards.
After penalties on both sides wiped out his touchdown pass to Johnson, Pickett dumped off a short pass to running back Benny Snell, who managed to get into the end zone to get Pittsburgh on the board with 23 seconds left in the half.
The former Pitt quarterback Najee Harris, who is entering his second season with the Steelers after having a Pro Bowl campaign in 2021, said he has seen "dramatic" improvement in the Steelers' rookie quarterback from OTAs to this point in the preseason. While he is still behind Mitchell Trubisky, it appears that Pickett has firmly supplanted himself in front of Mason Rudolph as the Steelers' No. 2 quarterback.with Pittsburgh's offense during the final week of training camp.
"You see him improve every step of the way," Harris said of Pickett following a recent training camp practice. "He has the talent, he just needs to have the confidence and really have the team to back him up. ... He's going to be good, for sure."