In three NFL seasons, Indianapolis Colts receiver Michael Pittman has mostly caught passes from veteran quarterbacks. This year, he's helping break in a rookie signal-caller.
Now he's there to help first-round pick Anthony Richardson transition to the NFL. Pittman said his first goal is to let the rookie know he's a trustworthy target.
"Just let him know, hey, send it my way, and if I don't catch it, then no one's gonna catch it," Pittman said via the team's website. "That gives him confidence to throw up those 50/50 balls -- oh, maybe he is, maybe he isn't. No, he's just gonna throw it down there, make a play, and that's just gonna build him up more. So, just letting him know that I'm that guy for him."
A precise route-runner, Pittman is one of the most under-heralded receivers in the NFL. Since 2021, his 187 receptions rank 10th in the league, and his 25.9 percent of Colts receptions over the past two years is the seventh-highest mark.
Pittman knows his ability to win off the line of scrimmage will make life easier for the rookie quarterback.
"It's more about being in the right spot at the right time for him," Pittman said. "Just being on my details, and then sometimes, I've just got to make a play. It may not be the best pass, it may not be the best route. I don't run perfect routes 100 percent of the time. Sometimes I gotta make him right, sometimes he'll make me right."
With the Colts employing the young but raw Richardson under center, most offseason prognosticators project a middling season for Pittman. But in an RPO scheme, Shane Steichen could funnel passes toward his No. 1 receiver, particularly given Pittman's ability to win off the line of scrimmage.
"Being a quarterback is probably the hardest job in sports," Pittman said. "And for him being so young, I don't want to make it more difficult. I want to make his job easy. Any way I can do that and take on more responsibility, I'm going to try to do that."
Starting with Sunday's season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, we'll see just how easy Pittman can make Richardson's job in 2023.