Every NFL Sunday — or college football Saturday, or high school Friday night for that matter — you can find moments to support this simple proposition.
Playing quarterback is the toughest job in sports.
We have said this before but it bears repeating: In the span of roughly three seconds, a quarterback has to decipher a defense, make the right decision with the football, and then make an accurate throw, all while some of the best athletes on the field try and put them in the hospital.
Not exactly easy.
One of the many examples from Week 2 of the NFL season comes from Monday night’s game between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers. With Pittsburgh facing a 1st and 10 on their own 29-yard line, Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett dropped into the pocket and threw a strike to George Pickens, a throw which the receiver turned into a 71-yard touchdown:
But let’s dive into this play just a little bit more.
First is what Pickett does with his eyes. With the Browns in single-high coverage, Pickett needs to move safety Grant Delpit out of the middle of the field if he can throw this in-breaking route to Pickens. As you can see from the above video, Pickett does that by looking to tight end Pat Freiermuth, who is running a crossing route. Delpit crashes downhill, which creates space for Pickens on his in-breaking route.
However, that is just part of the story, and a small one at that.
The biggest story is what Pickett stares down before making this throw. What exactly does he stare down? Dalvin Tomlinson, a defensive tackle listed at 6’3, 325. Tomlinson comes free on the interior, and has a free run at the quarterback. Pickett sees this, but with Pickens breaking open over the middle, Pickett knows that he has to stand tall in the pocket and make this throw.
And take the pain that comes with it:
Pickett stands in the pocket and takes the shot from Tomlinson, absorbing the hit through the turf as Pickens reels in the throw and outruns the secondary for the touchdown. The second-year passer gets up, wincing and grabbing at his left shoulder.
Having done his job.
The toughest in sports.