Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett gained thousands of fans worldwide when he was drafted last year. Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t one of them.
Big Ben Roethlisberger’s battle with NFL irrelevance is perhaps the most entertaining offensive display we’ve seen from the Steelers in years.
Roethlisberger retired after the 2022 season, getting the sendoff he deserved from Steeler Nation in the process. Roethlisberger is a future Hall of Famer — likely first ballot — and one of the best quarterbacks of his era. Since his retirement, he’s made several farewell tour appearances around the city, and even has a podcast to talk about the current team.
Sounds healthy, right?
For those who haven’t followed Roethlisberger’s career, it may come as a shock that the decades-long Steeler wasn’t rooting for Kenny Pickett at the beginning of last season. It’s even more surprising that he was willing to admit that publicly, and change his mind in front of Pickett himself.
Roethlisberger has a history of criticizing teammates, whether it be on his former weekly radio appearance on 93.7 The Fan here in Pittsburgh, or refusing to welcome THIRD-ROUND pick Mason Rudolph into the fold because he felt the Steelers could have used that slot to surround him with more talent. This is a man who already had Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown as weapons, mind you.
Steelers: Kenny Pickett was a threat to Ben Roethlisberger
Any time Roethlisberger felt the least bit threatened, he revolted. It didn’t matter that Ben was the highest-paid player on the roster for the better part of a decade, or that the Steelers treated him like a king for much of that time. The simple fact that Pickett had the first chance at replacing him, and was a local product as a former Pitt Panther, was enough to eat at him.
“I’ll be completely honest, I’ll be super transparent here, and I’m gonna get blasted,” Roethlisberger said. “I probably shouldn’t say this, but who cares at this point. I wouldn’t say that I wanted Kenny to necessarily fail, but when someone comes to replace you, I still feel like I had it, I hope he doesn’t come ball out. Because then it’s like, Ben who?”
Rather than being the thousandth writer to blast Roethlisberger, I’ll take this comment at face value. It says a lot about Pickett that watching him play finally forced Roethlisberger to drop his act.
“As you started playing, I found myself rooting more and more for you,” Roethlisberger said. “I wanted you to succeed, I wanted you to win games, I wanted you to go in the playoffs. I feel bad that I felt that early on, but I’m glad I transitioned to loving and rooting for you.”
Pickett was nothing but class throughout the interview, going as far as to note he studied Roethlisberger during his time at Pitt.
The Steelers quarterback brotherhood isn’t as notable as, say, the Green Bay Packers, which boast Bart, Starr, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, but the likes of Terry Bradshaw and Roethlisberger are nothing to snuff at.
Having their support is meaningful. Now, Pickett has that.