Kenny Pickett doesn’t change his style of play after his second concussion

Kenny Pickett doesn’t change his style of play after his second concussion

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett has played 10 NFL games and suffered two concussions.

Pickett will return from his second concussion this Saturday when the Steelers face the Las Vegas Raiders. He missed one game and almost all of another with this second injury after missing only one inning with the first.

Despite the fact that Pickett hasn’t missed much time, a concussion every five games won’t lead to a long and successful NFL career.

But the Steelers also don’t want Pickett to make drastic changes to the way he plays in general, and not even this week against the Raiders.

“I don’t think we can play like that,” offensive coordinator Matt Canada said Thursday. “Either it works or it doesn’t.”

The Steelers want Pickett to go, and while Canada said they may try to take things easy in terms of how long Pickett runs with the football, he pointed out that both times he’s been injured this season, Pickett just dropped. back to a normal passing game.

“The injury occurred in just one fall. But we had a lost mission, Canada said. “We’re going to continue to let Kenny continue to learn more every week and understand where we’re at and not take unnecessary risks.”

So while keeping Pickett upright going forward is a priority, the onus to make changes to the team will be placed on the play of the offensive line, and not necessarily the quarterback.

“He’s been beat up and it’s on us,” center Mason Cole said. “We’ve got to do a better job of protecting him, especially when we get concussions. Keep him off the ground.”


Even on the play that injured Pickett, when Patrick Queen came unblocked thanks to an offensive line error, Pickett might have had time to throw the ball away or simply go down before Roquan Smith grabbed him and knocked him to the ground.

But Canada said he doesn’t want to be in Pickett’s head and make him worry about not getting hurt again instead of just focusing on playing.

“I try not to,” Canada said. “It’s easy to say. He is a real competitive man. He shook off the first one and he’s going to try to make a play. Obviously they got him. So, yeah, sure, I wish he’d just go down. But you can’t ask him to do that. He is who he is. He did a good job of shaking one. It falls on (us). We just can’t let these things happen.”

Pickett said it’s easy to say he should have thrown it in retrospect, but much harder to make that decision on the field.

“This game happens a lot faster than people think when you look at the page or watch on TV,” he said. “The way these guys measure speed, it’s pretty ridiculous how fast it is. I was trying to make a play, not take a sack and throw it, but also wanted ball security, right? … There can be a fumble and bad things can happen.”

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Pickett is obviously aware of the risks and dangers of concussions, and it was actually the rookie’s self-reported symptoms that knocked him out of the game.

After the first hit, Pickett was evaluated on the sideline and allowed to return to the game. But after one more series, it was clear to Pickett that all was not OK. When he stood on the sidelines he felt fine. But when he moved and ran, he realized something was wrong.

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“I thought I was good to go,” Pickett said. “I felt good and then when I got back out and started running and my vision started playing more and I was moving and things were moving fast, that’s when the symptoms started coming up and I had to go in and they ruled me out. … It was definitely the right call to take me out and get me into the protocol.”

Pickett missed one half of football after his first concussion, then practiced the following week before returning to action the following Sunday. This time he was a limited practice all week and missed a game before returning.

The Steelers made no changes to their procedures or were more careful with Pickett this time. He simply had more severe symptoms that took longer to clear, he said.

“Definitely more severe, I think, than the first one, just based on the symptoms and how long they lasted,” Pickett said.

While he’s aware of the risks, Pickett doesn’t have long-term concerns about career-shortening concussions or impacting his life after football at this point.

“I went through with the doctors and listened to what they said,” Pickett said. “It comes with playing football. I was fortunate throughout my entire college career and didn’t really have many concussions at all or experience what I’ve experienced the last two. But it happens. It’s football.”

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Pickett is taking one step to minimize the risk of new concussions. He will wear a new helmet, recommended by teammate Pat Freiermuth, who has suffered multiple concussions in his short NFL career.

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Pickett said both of his concussions were not caused by being hit in the head, but by his head hitting the turf. He hopes that the new helmet, which has extra protection at the back of the head, can minimize the chance of another injury.

“The doctors said they have very good results with it,” Pickett said. “I trust what they say 100%. I definitely want to be safe. … It felt the same.”

Pickett said he will wear a visor with the new helmet, something he hasn’t done in the past. He said the new helmet’s opening is either too large and would allow hands to enter his face mask, or too small and would restrict his vision. So he wears the mask with the larger opening and visor.

If the Steelers can clean up their protection issues on the offensive line, and a new helmet can keep fewer hits from turning into concussions, Pickett and the team might be able to move on without a hitch. But the stakes are high for both, with the value of a first-round draft pick, and Pickett’s career and future health hanging in the balance.

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