Even though teams have increasingly prioritized playing players as early as possible to maximize the value of rookie contracts before they have to start thinking about actually paying those players market wages, it’s not always the case that the rookie quarterback is going to play right away.
Now, they often do, of course. Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Joe Burrow are just a few from the past two years. This year, Kenny Pickett was the only quarterback drafted in the first round—or the first two rounds—but is he going to start right away for the Pittsburgh Steelers?
Not if you ask Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, based on a couple of responses that he offered during his recent chat session when asked about the Steelers’ first-round pick and the timeline for his starting.
“The smarter approach is to let him sit for a while until he proves he is better in actual games”, he said in response to a question about Pickett getting ‘the nod’ over Trubisky if the competition were close. “Camp and preseason games are one thing, but Trubisky has NFL game experience. I’m not saying Pickett sits for long, but he’d have to blow their doors off to beat out Trubisky to start the season opener”.
Would he really have to blow the doors off to start over Trubisky? Well, I suppose that depends on how good Trubisky looks, right? If Pickett actually looks as good as or better than Trubisky, then I struggle to fathom a scenario in which they opt to start the equal or lesser option.
Still, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me, and shouldn’t surprise anybody, if Trubisky does start at the beginning of the season, and maybe even all season. While many rookie quarterbacks do start, many of them also do not play well right away, and the Steelers think they’re competing for a Super Bowl.
Elsewhere, when asked if, given that Pickett is 24 and supposedly ‘NFL-ready’, it would be a bit of a disappointment if he were not able to beat out Trubisky for the starting job by the start of the regular season as a rookie.
“Not at all”, Fittipaldo said. “They signed Trubisky for a reason. In the event they selected a QB high they didn’t want to rush him in any way. As for Pickett being 24 that might matter with other positions, but it doesn’t matter at all with QBs. QBs can play until their late 30s and early 40s, or in the case of Tom Brady when he’s 100”.
Quarterback is one position where you don’t worry too much about drafting an ‘older’ player if he’s really that good. It’s hard enough to find a good quarterback without trying to get him as young as possible to try to maximize his inexpensive years. Just don’t draft Brandon Weeden.