Ben Roethlisberger admitted he hoped Kenny Pickett didn’t shine out of the gate with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
On his Footbahlin with Ben Roethlisberger podcast, Big Ben told Pickett face-to-face that his initial reaction was that the young QB would struggle.
“I’ll be completely honest. And I’ll be super transparent. I’m gonna get blasted,” Roethlisberger said. “I probably shouldn’t say this. But, I mean, who cares at this point. I wouldn’t say that I wanted Kenny to necessarily fail. But when someone comes to replace you and you’re like, I still feel like I had it, I hope he doesn’t come ball out. Because then it’s like, ‘Ben who?'”
In a very human moment, Big Ben admitted the selfishness of his feelings dissipated as Pickett got on the field.
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“Early on, I didn’t want him to succeed, ’cause I didn’t want him to follow me up,” he said. “I didn’t want it to happen. I think that’s probably the selfishness of me, and I feel bad for it. But as it went on, as the season went on, he got into like the third game playing, I was rooting for him. I was excited for ya. I wanted you to succeed. I wanted you to win the games. I wanted you to get to playoffs. So, I feel bad that I felt that early on, but I’m glad that I transitioned into loving and rooting for you.
“It’s been fun watching you. I enjoy texting you after games. It’s been fun watching you, man. I’m a fan.”
Pickett had moments during his rookie campaign, including some breathtaking comebacks. But he didn’t blow anyone out of the water in Matt Canada’s offense, which continued to struggle putting up touchdowns with Pickett under center.
Still, the young QB showed enough flashes to warrant optimism that with the offensive line upgrades and talent at the skill positions, the Steelers could take a step forward in 2023.
Big Ben admitted he didn’t know much about Pickett’s game before watching the QB play on Sunday — a tacit admission that most NFL players, current and past, aren’t exactly draftniks.
“Like I just didn’t know. I had no idea,” Roethlisberger said of Pickett’s game. “I didn’t know that you were the runner that you were. I just didn’t know what was gonna happen. I wasn’t aware, and I was pleasantly surprised. I’m glad that I was wrong in the sense of where I had you. I thought you’d be a quarterback that was good, that was gonna come in. I think you’re the future of this team. I really do. The fans are lucky they got you.”
Undoubtedly, Roethlisberger is not the first — nor the last — former player hoping his successor doesn’t immediately make him an afterthought. However, he might be one of the few to say it to a player’s face. For his part, Pickett said he appreciated Big Ben’s openness and support. The young QB has proven plenty of doubters wrong so far. With a good 2023, Pickett would add more believers to that list.
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