Eagles QB Kenny Pickett mum on moving on from Steelers, ready for 'good reset' as backup in Philly

Mon, Mar 18, 2024
NFL News (AP)

Eagles QB Kenny Pickett mum on moving on from Steelers, ready for 'good reset' as backup in Philly

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - After two middling seasons in Pittsburgh, Kenny Pickett was ready to leave the Steelers behind - as well as most of the reasons why he wanted out, rather than stay and compete with Russell Wilson for the starting quarterback job.

All Pickett wants now is a chance to contribute, somehow, with the Philadelphia Eagles after he was traded last week.

Pickett, a New Jersey native, rattled off a list of Eagles greats that included Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook he grew up rooting for at the Linc. He had "great memories" of going to games with his dad and grandfather since he was 5 years old, and the chance to run out of the home team tunnel - and shave almost 8 hours round trip off his parents' commute - left him absolutely delighted.

The 25-year-old Pickett said later he had nothing but "great memories" of his Steelers' run, as well.

But as for that ending?

Pickett was largely evasive on why he wished to play elsewhere, though the reasons were fairly transparent.

Pickett was traded just hours after the Steelers signed Wilson to a one-year deal to compete with Pickett for the starting job, though all signs appeared to be pointing to Wilson having the edge when the team reported for training camp at Saint Vincent College in July.

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Wilson declined to say he expected to be the starter when asked during his introductory news conference and added he and Pickett had connected shortly after Wilson agreed to terms with the team, saying they were both focused on making the Steelers better.

The Wilson-Pickett combo instead had a shorter shelf life in Pittsburgh than a Jaromir Jagr bobblehead.

"I just thought it was time," Pickett said Monday. "It just felt like it was time from the things that transpired. I wanted to get a chance to go somewhere else and continue to grow my career."

Pickett was lambasted by some critics for seemingly refusing to compete with Wilson for the starting spot. In Philly, he's a clear No. 2 QB behind Jalen Hurts, who led the Eagles to the Super Bowl two seasons ago. Pickett comes on the cheap for a backup - he will count slightly less than $2 million against the Eagles' salary cap this season.

Pickett said he was ready to help the Eagles "any way I can" and already had talked to Hurts and backup Tanner McKee about how they can work together to make the team a contender next season.

"It's a good reset," Pickett said. "It's a crazy league, crazy business. I'm just trying to put my best foot forward and be an asset for this team."

The Eagles won the Super Bowl for the 2017 season behind a backup QB in Nick Foles and largely have relied on veterans such as Gardner Minshew and Marcus Mariota to fill that role of late.

Pickett, a first-round pick out of Pitt in 2022, went 14-10 as a starter but struggled to stay healthy and be a difference maker for an offense that languished near the bottom of the league.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin appeared to give Pickett a vote of confidence after the end of the season while allowing that 2024 would be a "huge" year in terms of his future. General manager Omar Khan doubled down on Pickett at the NFL combine last month, saying the team had "full faith" that Pickett could mesh with new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.

Yet a week later the club brought free-agent-to-be Wilson in for a visit and agreed to terms on a one-year deal late Sunday night.

Pittsburgh received a third-round pick in this year's draft and two seventh-round choices in 2025 for Pickett and Pittsburgh's fourth-round pick this year.

"I think the communication is what it is," Pickett said. "It's behind closed doors. I'm confident in the way that I handled it. I handled it the way I should have handled it."

One early sign that Pickett's relationship with the Steelers soured came in December when it was reported that he told the coaching staff he didn't want to suit up as a backup behind Mason Rudolph. Tomlin said Pickett, who had been sidelined by ankle surgery, had been cleared by the medical staff to play but opted to make him inactive because of his lack of reps during practice.

"I think that goes back to a lot of the communication behind closed doors," said Pickett, adding he didn't like the internet speculation. "There was a plan there for that game. It went down exactly how it planned to go down during that entire week."

It almost doesn't matter now. The brief and tumultuous Pickett era in Pittsburgh is over - even if the why remains without the full picture.

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DAN GELSTON Gelston is an an Associated Press sports writer covering major college and pro sports in Philadelphia, including the 76ers, Flyers, Eagles, Phillies and Villanova. twitter mailto "
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