Regardless of what happens in Week 5, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett will never forget it.
But the Buffalo Bills defense will do everything they can to make his day so miserable that he wants to forget it.
Pickett, a first-round rookie for his team, is making the first start of his career in Buffalo on Sunday. Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin officially handed things over to him.
Even if Buffalo’s defense is the No. 2 ranked unit in the NFL through four games, the Bills are not taking him lightly.
That starts at the top. Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott said there’s a reason Pickett was the only QB taken in Round 1 of the 2022 NFL draft.
“He looks like a good, young quarterback, had a good preseason, played well when he got in the game the other day, and was productive,” McDermott said via video conference. “It looks like he knows what he’s doing and how to function in that offense, and I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
One might expect the players to take a similar approach. But in a way, they’re not.
Sure, there’s a level of respect. However, the plan for players on the Bills defense appears to be… forget Pickett is a rookie. Treat him like anybody else and don’t take him lightly.
“A long time ago I just stopped calling guys rookies and treating guys like rookie. This is pro sports, everybody is a professional,” pass rusher Von Miller said via video conference. “I like to give everybody that type of respect.”
Safety Jordan Poyer echoed a similar message.
“Obviously, they [the Steelers] got a rookie quarterback coming in here,” Poyer said. “A top, first-round pick, a guy who’s got all the potential in the world.”
Poyer dove deeper into the X’s and O’s as well. After Pickett replaced former Buffalo QB Mitch Trubisky last week, Poyer said he didn’t think the Steelers altered things all that much… but added the Bills won’t exactly expect that to happen again.
“They didn’t really change much in the second half of that Jets game with the way they were running the ball, with the plays that they were calling,” Poyer said. “So I’m sure they’re going to come out with [some] little wrinkles for us on Sunday, but you really just kind of watch their offense as a whole, get some tips, get some reminders throughout the week.”
Miller, All-Pro. Poyer, All-Pro. What really could be the difference maker against Pickett?
Sure, their talents…but Buffalo’s secondary has some of those “tips” in it.
Bills defensive backs Dane Jackson and Damar Hamlin played at Pitt in college and were teammates with Pickett.
If Buffalo manages to correctly apply their intel on the rookie QB in their game plan, it could be a long afternoon for Pittsburgh.