The vast majority of teams’ eventual 53-man rosters will be set coming out of the draft, so it’s not a surprise to start to see prediction exercises pop up not soon after. Pro Football Focus published a piece on Monday taking a stab at predicting each team’s starting 22 players on offense and defense, and as one might expect in May, there are some interesting choices to make.
When it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ predicted starting 22, there are two places to observe: quarterback and the defensive line, specifically Stephon Tuitt’s spot. Will he be there or not? That’s a pretty big question. And under center, will it be a veteran or rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett?
Sam Monson endeavors to wager a prediction in both situations, projecting Pickett to be the starting quarterback for the Steelers’ offense over Mitch Trubisky…and for Tyson Alualu to be the starter next to Cameron Heyward, in a nickel front with five defensive backs on the field.
“Pittsburgh brought in Mitchell Trubisky on a two-year, $14.3 million deal that didn’t scream ‘locked-in starter’ at the time and certainly doesn’t now after the Steelers spent their first-round pick on Kenny Pickett”, Monson wrote about the quarterback position. “Pickett isn’t without his concerns as a prospect, but he has a better chance of providing a real upgrade at quarterback for the Steelers than Trubisky does”.
I tend to agree with him. I would certainly hope that Pickett is able to beat out Trubisky for the starting job this year, and I wouldn’t be overly excited if he can’t at least make it a tough decision. If he is supposed to be the most pro-ready quarterback in the class but isn’t ready to best Trubisky as a rookie, how ready is he going to be to win a Super Bowl in year four?
Then there’s the matter of the defensive line. Monson doesn’t offer much here, but of course there isn’t much to offer. It’s just a matter of wanting to be liberal or conservative when it comes to handicapping the odds of Tuitt showing up. Monson takes the conservative route here.
As it concerns the rest of the starting lineup, there are no surprises. Arguably the biggest area up for debate would be the interior offensive line, and he has Kevin Dotson at left guard, Mason Cole at center, and James Daniels at right guard—as most are assuming.
Given that he went with a starting nickel defense—which, mind you, is entirely fair—Monson spared himself the challenge of wagering which two cornerbacks amongst Cameron Sutton, Levi Wallace, and Ahkello Witherspoon would see the most playing time. And George Pickens, the rookie second-round pick, naturally slots in as the number three receiver.