Steelers QB Kenny Pickett Has 1-Word Reaction to Rule Named After Him

Steelers QB Kenny Pickett

Getty Images Kenny Pickett of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

One day Kenny Pickett is throwing passes and making plays in a NCAA title game, and the next, there’s a new rule being named after him. In the December 4, 2021, ACC championship game, Pickett’s No. 17 Pitt Panthers rolled by No. 18 Wake Forest Demon Deacons in a 45-21 victory.

The tone was set for the Panthers in what turned out to be a controversial opening drive. Pickett broke contain and sprinted for the end zone. Just as it appeared that defenders had him stopped, he shifted his body weight enough to fool Wake Forest that he was sliding, only to regain momentum to run in for the score. And just like that, Pitt was up 6-0.

The NCAA moved swiftly to intervene and ensure it was a one-shot. The Rules Committee took less than a week to respond, ruling that faking a slide creates an unfair advantage for the offense.

“Sweet,” Pickett said with a grin about having a play banned (at both college and pro levels) because of his tricky thinking.

“I loved it at the time. It got me a 60-yard touchdown,” he said as a guest on the July 17 episode of “Not Just Football with Cam Heyward.” “It was great.”

With Pickett’s second first-quarter touchdown — an uncontroversial one through the air — he became Pitt’s passing touchdown leader, breaking the previous record of 79, set by Hall of Famer Dan Marino.

The Aftermath of the Kenny Pickett Fake Slide

Following the Panthers’ victory, Pickett told the press that he meant to attempt a fake slide.

“Yeah, it was intentional,” Pickett told the Associated Press. “I just kind of started slowing down and pulling up and getting ready to slide, and I just kind of saw their body language, and they just pulled up as well. … I have never done that before. I just kind of kept going after I initially started to slide.”

Pickett acknowledged the controversy surrounding the play on his December 8 appearance on The Dan Patrick Show. He said he didn’t see it as cheating but knew a change was on the horizon.

“People are saying I cheated. I think that’s a little ridiculous,” he said. “There’s no rule for it. There’s guys that fake running out of bounds and all that stuff, and I’ve never done that. I couldn’t even tell you what I was thinking. I just went out there and did it. I guarantee with how much publicity it’s getting, I’m sure there will be a rule this year.”

As suspected, the NCAA rules committee banned fake sliding — Ball Declared Dead — with the following language:

Any time a ball carrier begins, simulates, or fakes a feet-first slide, the ball should be declared dead by the on field officials at that point. The intent of the rule is player safety, and the objective is to give a ball carrier an option to end the play by sliding feet first and to avoid contact. To allow the ball carrier to fake a slide would compromise the defense that is being instructed to let up when the ball carrier slides feet first.

The rule isn’t officially called “The Kenny Pickett Rule,” but like the NFL’s tuck rule (known better as “The Tom Brady Rule“) and the rule against illegal blindside blocks (known as “The Hines Ward Rule“), the rule prohibiting fake slides will forever be dubbed The Kenny Pickett Rule.

Kenny Pickett Expects to Have Input on Steelers Offensive Game Plan

Fast-forward two years, and Pickett is at the helm of the other Pittsburgh team, the Steelers. Heading into his second season, he expected to have more input on the offensive game plan.

“I was part of a good process of adding some things this offseason, during spring, and taking some things away that we didn’t like,” he said during a media scrum as players piled into Latrobe, PA’s St. Vince College for training camp. “I’ve been part of those conversations, so I think definitely when the game comes around, I’ll have an input as well.”

Pickett said the key to success in the NFL is balance and that the Steelers will have that in 2023.