When Kenny Pickett arrived at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on Friday, he was ushered into a part of the joint training center that was foreign to him.
For the past five seasons, when he was a quarterback at Pitt, he walked through the door on the right side of the building’s security post.
This time, wearing a black T-shirt and Pittsburgh Steelers draft cap, he made sure to enter from the other side.
“Coming right by, walking into the building, I always looked down the left side,” Pickett said after being introduced as the Steelers’ first draft pick. “Now I’m going to call this place home.”
Team president Art Rooney also referenced Pickett’s proverbial change of scenery.
“Usually I can say to the individual, ‘Welcome to Pittsburgh,'” Rooney said to kick off the press conference. “Today, I welcome you to this side of the building. It’s a good feeling to be able to do that. »
Pickett’s draft comes 39 years after the Steelers passed on Dan Marino, opting to take defensive lineman Gabe Rivera with the No. 21 pick. Six selections later, the Miami Dolphins took on Temple member Marino of professional football fame who was the most prolific passer in Pitt’s history until Pickett broke many of his records.
“I’m glad they didn’t let me down this year,” Pickett said. “I talked to Dan a lot. I will continue to talk to him and use him as a resource.
Rooney II said it was “pretty special” for the Steelers to get Pickett given his college resume.
“You all know the number of awards Kenny has won, Heisman Trophy runner-up,” Rooney said. “But, of course, you know the goals of the team are what count, and Kenny led his team to a championship last season. And that’s what we’re looking for here: winning a championship.
With the Steelers, Pickett’s commute to work will be about 100 yards shorter than during his college days, as noted by Pitt’s coach Pat Narduzzi.
“He can park in that lot,” Narduzzi said, referring to the lot tucked between the Rooney complex and the indoor training facility. Pitt players park on the far side of the covered lot and have a longer walk.
“They won’t chase him.”
Narduzzi thinks Pickett’s familiarity with Pittsburgh in general and the South Side in particular will work to the quarterback’s advantage. Other than finding a new apartment, Pickett won’t have to move far from his digs in Oakland.
“He knows where he’s going,” Narduzzi said. “There won’t be this, ‘Where am I going to live?’ He knows the area. I pray this is just the right situation.
Pickett joins a quarterback room that includes Mason Rudolph and Mitch Trubisky. Coach Mike Tomlin said Pickett will have a chance as a rookie to compete with the two veterans for the starting job that was vacated by the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger.
Pickett said he had heard Rudolph and Trubisky welcome him to the organization before. It wasn’t his first interaction with Trubisky, who signed a two-year contract with the Steelers in March.
“I don’t know if he remembered, but my senior year he tried to recruit me from North Carolina,” Pickett said. “It’s kind of a full circle. They’re two great guys that I’m really looking forward to working with.
Once media obligations were over, it completed a whirlwind 18 hours for Pickett. It started at his draft party in Loch Arbor, NJ, with his fiancée Amy Paternoster, parents, grandparents and close friends in attendance. He had to go through 19 draft picks before the Steelers called him, and he was the only quarterback among the 32 players picked.
“Everyone who played a role in helping me get here was there,” Pickett said. “It was an awesome moment.”
After sleeping what he described as two or three hours, Pickett boarded a commercial flight to Pittsburgh, where he was greeted by cameras and a group of fans at Pittsburgh International Airport. He had the obligatory photo taken with the statue of Franco Harris before being taken to the South Side to meet his new employer.
His next agenda will be making his first appearance at Heinz Field as a Steeler. This will take place on Saturday for the team’s draft.
Pickett said he politely declined the usual ride up the slope of Mount Washington or dinner at Primanti Brothers — the treatment the Steelers give first-round picks from out of town.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t need the tour,'” Pickett laughed. “When the new guys come here, I can show them around.”