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The Steelers didn't have to look far to find their first-round pick, selecting University of Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett with the 20th pick overall in the 2022 NFL Draft.
"We're super, super excited to be able to draft Kenny Pickett with our first-round pick," said General Manager Kevin Colbert. "Honestly, never thought he would make it to us at 20. Exciting times for us, for Kenny, for the University of Pittsburgh, and for Pittsburgh in general. It's great. We couldn't be more excited."
Pickett said when the Steelers called him and he saw the number show up on the phone, he had a pretty good idea who was calling as he is more than familiar with the Pittsburgh area code.
"I was speechless," said Pickett. "It's a lifelong -- 23 years of hard work to get to this point, and that all came in a phone call. It was probably one of the best moments of my life, and I'm so excited to get started and get to work with the guys who are next door to me my whole career with the Pittsburgh Panthers.
"I had a pretty good feeling when I got to 20 that that would be the call. As soon as the Saints pick went in, I got the call. My dad saw, my fiancée saw, so we were all incredibly excited for it. I honestly just broke down. Like I said before, I'm just repeating myself, but it's my life's work in one phone call. It's really special.
"I was really excited to obviously get the call. I wasn't too sure when it was going to be. We kind of had an idea, but I saw the 412 number pop up, obviously I got insanely excited for it. It's an unbelievable organization to be a part of and I can't wait to get there."
Pickett finished his career as Pitt's all-time leading passer with 12,303 yards, one of the many school records he holds.
His senior season was one of his strongest, leading Pitt to an 11-2 record and the school's first ACC Championship.
"You watch him grow over the years, and sometimes we're more critical of the Pitt guys because we've watched them grow from freshmen on up," said Colbert, as the Steelers and Pitt both practice at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. "We get a little too critical times, and we talk about that. Some of the other kids, the other players, we catch them in their sophomore, junior year and you don't get to see them quite as much.
"Kenny developed, obviously had a great senior year, and it was a good move for him to stay in school. It just talks and preaches about what you can do when you stay and continue to develop and turn into a first-round pick. Kenny is special, and he grew from -- like I said, we watched him come in as a freshman. You knew who he was, and when he became their starter, you just continued to watch him grow into the great season that he had.
"We really don't get to see the Pitt kids as much as you think we do. They're on an opposite practice schedule. We get to see them play some more games. We had Kenny valued the most because we took him first."
Pickett was a fifth-year senior in 2021, deciding to come back for one more year, something that obviously paid off for him.
"I just think the experience of playing games and having starts under my belt, I think that really helps, seeing a lot of different defenses, playing a lot of different levels of competition," said Pickett. "I think it's just only going to help me at the next level. I'm just excited to finally fulfill my dream and go relentlessly at this goal of winning a championship.
"I'm really happy that I'm in Pittsburgh.
"I can't wait to get to work. I'm really excited. Like I said before, I'm kind of speechless. I've never had this kind of feeling before in my life. It's all the hard work coming to fruition in front of me. I can't wait to get in that building and go chase championships with those guys."
Coach Mike Tomlin, who has gotten to know Pickett casually over the years he has been at Pitt, said there is a lot to like about him, including his maturity.
"We talked about his high floor, and the high floor was because of the intangibles but also the anticipation and the pro accuracy were very obvious and consistent when studying his tape," said Tomlin. "It was a good thing for him to come back and go back to school and gain another year of college experience. He is 24 years old. He is a mature young man. You do see maturity in his game, and I think all of those things are going to put him into position to compete."
Pickett joins a quarterback room that includes Mitchell Trubisky, who was signed as an unrestricted free agent, and Mason Rudolph.
And as far as his opportunity to start this year?
"He'll be given an opportunity to compete," said Tomlin.
Competition is something he doesn't mind at all.
"I'm pretty familiar with competing. I've been doing it my whole life," said Pickett. "So, I know how to be a good teammate and also compete at the same time. I'm excited to join the quarterback room, get to know those guys and honestly just get better every day. We're all chasing a championship, so at the end of the day that's all that matters. That's what I'm excited to go do."
Pickett said he has no problem staying in Pittsburgh for his professional career and doesn't think there will be any added pressure playing his college and professional career in the same city.
"It's the National Football League, man, so there's pressure always," said Pickett, who held his own draft party at home in New Jersey instead of going to Las Vegas. "I love playing football. I love playing the game. This has been my whole entire life. I'm so excited to get with new teams, new coaches. (Offensive coordinator) Matt Canada, who I was recruited by (when he was at Pitt), I can finally play with him and get coached by him. We're going to be spending a heck of a lot of time together to say the least. I'm incredibly excited to get there. But the pressure is always there. It's the business."
KENNY PICKETT CAREER:
Pickett finished his career as Pitt's all-time leader in passing yards (12,303), pass completions (1,045), total offense (13,112), touchdown responsibility (102) and passing touchdowns (81)...he has the most 300-yard passing games (16) and 400-yard passing games (five) in Pitt history…Pickett also had 20 career rushing touchdowns, a new standard for a Pitt quarterback…he finished as the winningest starting quarterback in Pitt history with 32 victories…in 49 career starts, Pickett fashioned a 32-17 record.
2021 HONORS & AWARDS:
- Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Winner (nation's top senior/fourth-year junior quarterback)
- Senior CLASS Award Winner (community, classroom, character and competition)
- Heisman Memorial Trophy Finalist (nation's outstanding player)
- Maxwell Award Finalist (nation's outstanding player)
- Walter Camp Award Finalist (nation's outstanding player)
- Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award Finalist (nation's best college quarterback)
- Manning Award Finalist (college football's outstanding quarterback)
- AFCA All-America Team (first team)
- Walter Camp All-America Team (first team)
- Associated Press All-America Team (second team)
- Football Writers Association of America All-America Team (second team)
- Sporting News All-America Team (second team)
- ACC Player of the Year (overall and offensive)
- Brian Westbrook Regional Player of the Year Award (Maxwell Football Club)
- Panther Award (presented to the senior student-athletes who have best promoted Pitt through their outstanding athletic achievements)
In 13 starts, Pickett directed the Panthers to an 11-2 record and the program's first ACC championship…the 11 victories marked Pitt's most since the Dan Marino-led 1981 team went 11-1…from an individual standpoint, Pickett was named a first team All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation and American Football Coaches Association (AFCA)…the last Pitt quarterback to be named a first team All-American was Marino in 1981…Pickett was selected the winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (presented to the top upperclassman quarterback set to graduate with his class) and the Senior CLASS Award (presented to the most outstanding senior Football Bowl Subdivision student-athlete)…he additionally was a Heisman Trophy finalist—Pitt's first since receiver Larry Fitzgerald in 2003—and finished third in the balloting.
Starting the year's initial 13 games, he completed 67% of his passes (334 of 497) for 4,319 yards with 42 touchdowns and only seven interceptions…including his five rushing scores, he totaled 47 touchdowns…it was the most prolific season ever by a Pitt quarterback…his 4,319 passing yards, 42 passing touchdowns, 47 total TDs and 334 completions set school single-season marks…he also set an ACC season record for touchdown passes (eclipsing the prior mark of 41 set by Clemson's Deshaun Watson in 2016).
2021 STATISTICAL RANKINGS:
Pickett boasted national top-10 statistical rankings in eight categories: touchdown passes (ACC-record 42, fourth), points responsible for (282, fourth), points responsible for per game (21.7 avg., fifth), total offense (350.8 avg., fifth), passing yards (4,319, sixth), passing yards per game (332.2 avg., sixth), completions per game (25.69 avg., seventh) and pass efficiency (ACC-high 165.3 rating, ninth).
2021 GAME BY GAME:
vs. Wake Forest (Dec. 4, ACC Championship Game): Pickett led the Panthers to their first ACC Championship, accounting for three touchdowns in a 45-21 win over Wake Forest. He threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-33 passing (61%), while also running for a dazzling 58-yard score that was a highlight-show fixture.
At Syracuse (Nov. 27): Pickett led Pitt to a 31-14 win at Syracuse by completing 74% of his passes (28 of 38) for 209 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. With his Syracuse performance, Pickett became the first Pitt player to surpass 4,000 passing yards and throw 40 touchdown passes in a season. He became just the third ACC quarterback to reach those milestones, joining Florida State's Jameis Winston (who did it during his 2013 Heisman Trophy season) and Clemson's Deshaun Watson (2016).
Virginia (Nov. 20): In one of the grittiest performances of his career, Pickett threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns in lifting Pitt to a Coastal Division-clinching 48-38 victory over Virginia. Pickett left the contest due to injury and acknowledged playing through discomfort during the game's final crucial moments, but threw a 62-yard touchdown strike with two minutes left to seal the win and the Coastal title.
North Carolina (Nov. 11): Pickett directed Pitt to a 30-23 overtime victory over North Carolina by throwing for 346 yards and three touchdowns on 25 of 43 passing (58%). He had one interception. In the extra period, played under a heavy downpour, Pickett produced the winning points by throwing a dart to Lucas Krull for an 11-yard score. The victory over UNC marked Pickett's third career win in overtime.
At Duke (Nov. 6): Pickett led Pitt to a 54-29 win at Duke by compiling 473 total yards and four touchdowns. He competed 65% of his passes (28 of 43) for 416 yards and three TDs with zero interceptions. On the ground, he averaged 7.1 yards per rush (57 yards on eight carries) and had a 22-yard scoring run.
Miami (Oct. 30): Pickett threw for 519 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions on 39-of-55 passing (71%) against Miami. His passing yardage, completions and total yards (509) set Pitt single-game records.
Clemson (Oct. 23): Pickett fueled Pitt's 27-17 win over Clemson, throwing for 302 yards on 25-of-39 passing (64%) with two TDs and zero interceptions. The Tigers entered the game surrendering just 12.5 points per game.
At Virginia Tech (Oct. 16): Under windy conditions at Virginia Tech, Pickett directed a 28-7 win by accounting for three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing), while completing 22-of-37 passes (59%) for 203 yards.
At Georgia Tech (Oct. 2): Pickett threw for 389 yards and four touchdowns in a 52-21 demolition of Georgia Tech (Oct. 2). He completed 64% of his passes (23 of 36) and did not throw a pick. Over the three-game span that included Western Michigan, New Hampshire and Georgia Tech, Pickett threw 15 touchdowns, breaking Dan Marino's Pitt record for most TD passes in a three-game stretch (13 in 1981).
New Hampshire (Sept. 25): Pickett threw for 403 yards and five touchdowns on 24-of-28 passing (86%). He added a one-yard rushing score to account for six total TDs in the 77-7 win.
Western Michigan (Sept. 18): Pickett threw for 382 yards and six touchdowns with one INT on 23-of-31 passing (74%). His six scoring passes were one shy of the school record and tied the ACC single-game mark. Pickett became one of only four Pitt quarterbacks to throw at least six touchdowns in a game, joining Pete Gonzalez (a school-record seven in a double-overtime contest against Rutgers in 1997), Dan Marino (six vs. South Carolina, 1981) and Tom Savage (six vs. Duke, 2013).
At Tennessee (Sept. 11): In a 41-34 victory at Tennessee, he accounted for three touchdowns (two passing), while completing 24 of 36 (67%) for 285 yards. He added a one-yard scoring run.
Massachusetts (Sept. 4): In less than three quarters of work, Pickett threw for 272 yards and two TDs on 27-of-37 passing (73%) in a 51-7 win.
Started nine games, missing two consecutive contests due to injury (Oct. 17 at Miami and Oct. 24 vs. Notre Dame)…completed 61% of his passes (203 of 332) for 2,408 yards with 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions…ranked second in the ACC and 15th nationally in completions per game (22.56)…ranked third in the ACC and 21st nationally in passing yards per game (267.6)…led team with eight rushing touchdowns, the most by a Pitt quarterback since 1973 (Billy Daniels, 10)…was the Panthers' third-leading rusher with 145 yards on 81 carries (1.8 avg.)…named to the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Top 15 and Davey O'Brien "QB Class of 2020" Top 35…became the first Pitt quarterback to twice throw for 400 yards in a game…threw for a season-high 411 yards against NC State, completing 56% of his passes (22 of 39)…accounted for three touchdowns against the Wolfpack (two rushing and one passing)…threw for 404 yards and two touchdowns on 35-of-52 passing (67%) in a 47-14 win over Virginia Tech…also rushed for a score against the Hokies and was named the ACC Quarterback of the Week…after missing two games at the end of October, returned for Pitt's contest at Florida State (Nov. 7) and directed a 41-17 victory…completed 21-of-27 passes (78%) for 210 yards and also rushed for a 10-yard score against the Seminoles.
Started 12 games (missing the Sept. 28 game against Delaware due to injury) and had the highest passing production of his collegiate career…completed 62% of his passes (289 of 469) for 3,098 yards with 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions…set then-Pitt season records for completions (eclipsing Tino Sunseri's mark of 256 set in 2012) and attempts (Rod Rutherford, 413 in 2003)…Pickett's passing yardage was the most at Pitt since 2012 and ranked fourth on the school single-season list…had five 300-yard passing games, the most by a Pitt quarterback since Tyler Palko also had five during the 2004 season…led the ACC and ranked fifth nationally in completions per game (24.08)…ranked second in the ACC and 24th nationally in passing yards per game (258.2)…orchestrated three fourth-quarter comebacks during the 2019 season, giving him five for his career, the most by a Pitt QB since Dave Havern also had five during the 1970-71 seasons…named MVP of the Quick Lane Bowl after throwing for 361 yards and three touchdowns on 27-of-39 passing (69%) in a 34-30 win over Eastern Michigan…TD passes covered 96, 19 and 25 yards, the last to Taysir Mack with 47 seconds left that proved to be the game winner…his 96-yard bomb (to Maurice Ffrench) marked the longest pass play in Pitt history, eclipsing the prior record of 91 yards (Alex Van Pelt to Dietrich Jells against Rutgers on Sept. 17, 1992)…in Pitt's 34-27 overtime win over North Carolina, completed 25-of-41 passes (61%) for 359 yards and one touchdown…he also rushed for two TDs, including the eventual game-winner in OT, and was named the ACC Quarterback of the Week…was prolific against Penn State's highly regarded defense, throwing for a season-high 372 yards on 35-of-51 passing (69%)…his 35 completions at Penn State marked a season high and fell two short of the Pitt record (37, Alex Van Pelt vs. Notre Dame in 1990)…led Pitt to a 35-34 win over UCF by throwing for 224 yards and a touchdown, rushing for 61 additional yards and catching the game-winning TD, a three-yard reception off a fourth-down gadget play pass—the "Pitt Special"—from receiver Aaron Mathews…named the ACC Quarterback of the Week and to the Davey O'Brien Award "Great 8" for his UCF performance…in a 33-30 win over Duke, threw for 268 yards with three TDs and two INTs on 29-of-48 passing (60%)…with Pitt facing a 30-26 deficit and 1:25 remaining, he directed a four-play, 82-yard march, capped by a 26-yard scoring strike to V'Lique Carter that was the game winner with 38 seconds left.
Started all 14 contests…completed 180-of-310 passes (58%) for 1,969 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions…Pitt's third-leading rusher with 220 yards and three touchdowns on 117 carries (1.9 avg.)…was exceptional in Pitt's 34-13 win at Wake Forest, a victory that clinched the Coastal Division championship for the Panthers…completed 23-of-30 passes (77%) for 316 yards and three touchdowns against the Demon Deacons…each of Pickett's three touchdown passes (4, 63 and 23 yards) came in the second half to help Pitt erase a 10-6 halftime deficit…named the ACC Quarterback of the Week and a Manning Award "Star of the Week" for his Wake Forest performance…completed 7-of-11 passes (64%) for 162 yards, including a 78-yard touchdown (to Maurice Ffrench) in a 52-22 win over Virginia Tech…rushed for a career-high 76 yards on seven carries (10.9 avg.) against Duke and had a season-long 30-yard touchdown run…also threw for 150 yards and two TDs against the Blue Devils, including a 25-yard scoring strike to Ffrench with five seconds remaining to break a 45-45 tie.
Played in four games, making one start as a true freshman…completed 39-of-66 passes (59%) for 509 yards with one touchdown and one interception on the year…also rushed for 93 yards on 26 carries (3.6 avg.) with two TDs…lone starting assignment was the regular-season finale, a 24-14 win over No. 2 Miami…became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Pitt since Pat Bostick in 2007…honored as the ACC Rookie of the Week for his performance against the Hurricanes…was responsible for all three Pitt touchdowns in the Miami win, rushing for two and throwing for another…completed 18-of-29 passes (62%) for 193 yards with zero interceptions and was also Pitt's second-leading rusher with 60 yards on 13 carries (4.6 avg.)…Pickett's six-yard touchdown rush gave the Panthers a 10-7 lead right before intermission…late in the third quarter he connected with Qadree Ollison on a five-yard shovel pass to increase the advantage to 17-7…Pickett's final TD proved to be the clincher—a perfectly executed bootleg on fourth down that the freshman took for a 22-yard score and 24-7 Pitt lead…in addition to his ACC Rookie honor, Pickett was also named a Manning Award "Star of the Week" for engineering the upset of the Hurricanes…prior to the Miami game, his most extensive action came a week prior at Virginia Tech…relieved starter Ben DiNucci in the second quarter and completed 15-of-23 passes (65%) for 242 yards with an interception against the Hokies…came off the bench late in the third quarter of the NC State game and played three series…completed 5-of-13 passes for 61 yards and rushed four times for 18 yards (4.5 avg.) against the Wolfpack…made his collegiate debut late in the Oct. 7 game at Syracuse, completing his lone passing attempt for 13 yards…enrolled at Pitt in January 2017 following his early graduation from Ocean Township and participated in spring drills.
Rated the nation's No. 10 pro-style quarterback by 247Sports…accounted for nearly 1,900 yards in total offense and 20 touchdowns his senior year…threw for 1,395 yards and nine touchdowns on 112-of-189 passing (59%), while rushing for 472 yards and 11 TDs…as a junior, Pickett threw for 1,796 yards and 19 touchdowns on 113-of-176 passing (64%) and also rushed for 336 yards and five TDs…led Ocean Township to a 9-2 record and the semifinals of the Central, Group 3 playoffs his junior year…for his career, passed for 4,670 yards and 43 touchdowns and rushed for 873 yards and 17 TDs…All-Shore Conference…rated the No. 11 overall prospect in New Jersey by 247Sports, No. 21 by ESPN, No. 23 by Rivals and No. 27 by Scout…played under Coach Don Klein.
Kenneth Shane Pickett, born 6/6/98, is the son of Ken and Kasey Pickett…has one sister…father was an All-America linebacker at Shippensburg University and is a member of the school's Athletic Hall of Fame…mother played soccer at Kutztown University…sister, Alex, played soccer at East Stroudsburg University...earned his bachelor's degree in marketing and is enrolled in Pitt's Katz Graduate School of Business.