Kenny Pickett will only need to move to the other side of the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex to start his NFL journey.
The Pittsburgh Steelers selected the University of Pittsburgh star with the 20th overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft on Thursday night in Las Vegas.
The most pro-ready quarterback in the draft, Pickett was a four-year starter at Pitt who progressively improved each season. The Heisman Trophy finalist and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner as the nation's top senior quarterback passed for 4,319 yards and a whopping 42 touchdowns with just seven interceptions in 13 starts in his final season, leading the Panthers to an 11-2 record.
The only previous quarterback drafted out of Pitt in the first round was Hall of Famer Dan Marino (27th overall in 1983). Pickett's selection at 20th overall marks the latest the first quarterback was taken in a draft since 1997, when the San Francisco 49ers drafted Jim Druckenmiller with the 26th overall pick.
Pickett owns prototypical size and athleticism for a modern quarterback. The ACC Player of the Year displayed innate pocket awareness and good accuracy, particularly on off-schedule plays. The 23-year-old sports good anticipation in his throws and can identify defensive weaknesses pre-snap. Pickett led the FBS with 25 pass touchdowns versus the blitz in 2021, more such TDs than he had in his first four college seasons combined (21).
During the draft process, Pickett was dinged for having small hands (measured 8 ½ inches at the NFL Scouting Combine and 8 5/8 inches at his pro day), the smallest of any NFL signal-caller. Pickett is an average deep-ball thrower who doesn't have incredible velocity on his passes. But he overcomes the lack of a big arm with anticipation and gets through his progressions quickly. Coaches and scouts gush about Pickett's competitiveness and leadership from the quarterback position. Coupling his football smarts and ability to make plays from various platforms gives Pickett the chance to be a Day 1 starter.
That is precisely what the Steelers need in Pickett following the retirement of franchise pillar Ben Roethlisberger. In taking the draft's most pro-ready signal-caller, Pittsburgh has officially staked its claim to the hope the local product can quickly fill the massive shoes left by Roethlisberger. He'll have to beat out the likes of Mason Rudolph and Mitchell Trubisky to win the job in 2022.