In one way or another, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season—and perhaps a number of future seasons to come—will be defined by what happens at the quarterback position over the course of this offseason and into the regular season.
That is the nature of moving on from a franchise quarterback, of course, but the Steelers have given themselves a few options. While they retained incumbent backup Mason Rudolph, they also signed former first-round pick Mitch Trubisky in free agency. Later, they used their first-round pick to draft Kenny Pickett from next door.
All of them took the field for a practice session for the first time yesterday with the opening of OTAs, and shockingly, nobody won the job yet. Head coach Mike Tomlin was typically evasive when discussing any ‘battle’ within the group during OTAs.
“We’re just working right now, teaching and learning. There’ll be plenty of time for that”, he said of a quarterback competition, via transcript provided by the team. “Nobody’s going to win a job or lose a job out here in shorts in May”. He did, however, offer the competitors some advice. “Be themselves. Be their best selves—that’s going to be required—but be themselves”.
While the three quarterbacks in question aren’t worlds apart in terms of their skillset, they all do bring something a little different to the table. Trubisky and Pickett certainly offer more athleticism than does Rudolph, for example, who had by far the greatest familiarity with what the Steelers will be doing on offense, now in his fifth season with the team.
Pickett was widely regarded as being pretty much NFL-ready, for a number of different reasons, including having come out of a pro-style offense where he was asked to do many of the sorts of things he will have to do at the NFL level that most college offenses take out of their quarterback’s hands.
Still, it’s never easy for a rookie quarterback to be a starter right away. There’s a big jump in competition and coaching from the college level to the NFL level. And Pittsburgh believes that Trubisky has some real talent with the potential to be their starter.
Of course, they would not have drafted Pickett if they didn’t think they he would be their starter, in time, but that doesn’t have to be in year one, let alone from his very first snap. He will be afforded the opportunity to develop—if he proves to be ready to start from the jump, then that’s just a bonus.