Skip to main content

After Further Review: Competitive to the bitter end

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. _ After further review …

What transpired was so one-sided it was indisputable on both sides.

In the immediate aftermath late Sunday afternoon a couple of Bills defensive lineman made their way up the tunnel at Highmark Stadium on their way to the home locker room and before they got there one proclaimed out loud to no one in particular "that's a (butt-) whuppin.'"

Minutes later Cam Heyward stood behind a podium tucked away in a room adjacent to the visitor's locker room on the other side of the tunnel and acknowledged the "(butt-) kicking we just took."

So all parties were in agreement.

There shouldn't be any disputing this, either:

No. 1 pick Kenny Pickett acquitted himself well in his first NFL start at quarterback.

Head coach Mike Tomlin wasn't in a mood to confirm or deny as much in the wake of Bills 38, Steelers 3.

Tomlin credited Pickett for being "highly competitive," but otherwise didn't have a lot of "individual analysis" because the Steelers "got smashed as a collective."

Fair enough.

When you lose 38-3 nobody wants to hear about how the quarterback's 206 passing yards in the second half were the most by a rookie in a half in franchise history, or about how Pickett's 34 completions were the third-most by a rookie in his first career start since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

But what should be remembered is the "highly competitive" nature of Pickett's play throughout, not the meaningless stats amassed on the wrong side of a blowout.

The former impressed at least one of Pickett's veteran teammates.

"How you approach the huddle and how you approach the game, even when it was out of hand he still did a really good job of just being composed and getting us together," guard James Daniels maintained. "Of course it's not the result we wanted but I thought he did a really good job of handling the environment and just staying composed and handling himself pretty well."

That included push-back against Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson for what Pickett perceived to be a shot at his knee in the waining moments of regulation with the outcome long since decided.

Pickett handled himself pretty well after the game, as well.

At the same podium where Heyward would admit butts had been kicked Pickett spoke of the responsibility to lead that accompanies his position, and of the accountability he intended to apply in response.

"We have to kind of look in the mirror at ourselves as players and figure out what we have to do better," Pickett insisted. "There's a lot of fingers to be pointed, but when you look at yourself I think we'll improve a lot faster that way.

"It stars with myself. I wanna look at what I can improve on and get ready to go next week."

It was the latest example of Pickett exuding a veteran perspective that belies his freshman status.

There was a lot to unpack for Pickett, good and bad, after an experience he had admittedly "dreamed about since I picked up a football."

The impression he left was he's all about his team, and that 38-3 for starters isn't enough for Pickett to be deterred.

The Steelers still got "smashed" by the Bills (Tomlin referenced that three times in response to the first three questions he fielded and four times overall in a postgame session that lasted approximately six minutes).

But they also took another step toward finding their quarterback.

Related Content