Pickett perceptions, Pickens' impact, the knockout punch

What we learned from Mandatory Veteran Minicamp …

Whatever it takes: Quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan doesn't expect Kenny Pickett to be less of a "game manager" in his second season as the Steelers' quarterback, in part because Sullivan didn't perceive Pickett as such as a rookie.

"You can 'manage' on third down," Sullivan maintained. "You can 'manage' in the red zone. You certainly can't 'manage' in two-minute."

How much and how often the offense opens up, Sullivan suggested, may well have a lot to do with the matchup on a given Sunday.

"There are always going to be guidelines or parameters, if you will, in terms of a game where, 'You know what? This is a really great (opposing) offense, we're gonna have to keep pace,' so to speak," Sullivan explained. "Or maybe, 'This is an offense which we know our defense is matching up well against, and maybe our emphasis is maybe more ball-control oriented.'

"All these things are discussions that start with Coach (Mike) Tomlin and the directions that he gives us offensively through (offensive coordinator) Matt (Canada) moving forward."

Pickett isn't campaigning to turn the Steelers into "The Greatest Show on Turf."

But he's adamant the offense should be expected to provided what's required if a shootout ensues.

"Absolutely," he insisted. "We have that ability. We have the guys on the outside. We have the guys in the backfield and up front. We have everything in place. If we go execute we'll be able to go shot for shot with those guys, and that's the goal.

"Those teams that are playing into February, they have that and that's what we need to get to."

Worth the wait: Third-year secondary coach Grady Brown's familiarity with veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson and veteran free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick pre-dates Brown beginning his NFL coaching career in 2021 after 21 seasons in the college game.

"Pat and I were together at the early stages (at LSU)," Brown pointed out. "I'm so happy to be with him again. Minkah Fitzpatrick, I recruited him out of high school. Didn't sign him to South Carolina, he went to Alabama, and I always watched him from afar and I wanted to coach him then and I'm getting to coach him now.

"We're blessed and I can't wait to get back to it."

Pressing the issue: Part of the allure of rookie cornerbacks Joey Porter Jr. and Cory Trice Jr. is their length, their extended "coverage radius" (their size makes them hard to throw over on deep balls).

But Brown is also excited about their ability to play press coverage, to walk down to the line of scrimmage and make wide receivers work at the line of scrimmage before getting into their routes.

"That's hard to teach," Brown emphasized. "It's easier to enhance but it's hard to teach."

It'll be a point of emphasis in the secondary this season.

"Take away the space and don't give it back," Brown maintained. "From a rules standpoint the only place they let us win is on the line of scrimmage, they being the refs, they being the officiating crew. So we have to be able to take away that space and not give it back and win on the line of scrimmage."

IQ vs. KO: Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin appreciates what he's working with above the next on all three levels of the defense.

"When you have football intelligence, and you can understand what we're trying to get done and be able to do that, I think is important, and I think we do," Austin said. "We really have a good group in that regard, front to back. And it does, it makes it easier and allows you to do some different things, some things that maybe will throw some other people off schedule but won't throw us off schedule."

Defensive line coach Karl Dunbar also appreciates football intelligence.

But Dunbar, likewise, is a big fan of physicality.

"You don't have to be smart to knock somebody out," Dunbar maintained.

The next step: All eyes are destined to be on Pickett as he begins his second season and attempts to make the often-anticipated, second-year jump.

But Pickett won't be the only player in position to build significantly on what he did a season ago.

Second-year wide receiver George Pickens established himself as a threat on deep balls last season.

He'll be expected to grow his game significantly this season, and to impact the offense accordingly.

"We're hoping to add to his repertoire," wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson said. "Last year he showed the vertical part of his game. He has a lot more to his game. Hopefully, this year we can get him doing a bunch more of what he's capable of doing. We gotta get him to be better after the catch. He's gotta be able to take a slant and go 60 (yards) with it.

"He's gonna play a major part in our success this year and I gotta get him ready to play. He knows that and he has to get himself ready to play. If he's playing well we'll be a dynamic passing game, so we gotta get him to play well. I gotta get him to play well."