The Pittsburgh Steelers invested their 2022 first-round draft pick in the quarterback position when they had the chance to bring in Kenny Pickett, but it doesn’t appear that their plan for him is to start immediately. They did sign Mitch Trubisky in free agency, and he has been functioning as the starter through the spring, but eyes will constantly be on Pickett, monitoring his progress as he nears his opportunity to start.
Whoever is under center will have third-year wide receiver Chase Claypool to throw to, and he recently appeared on the I Am Athlete podcast with Brandon Marshall to talk about the Steelers, football, and mental health. At one point, the conversation veered toward Pickett, and he gave his thoughts on what he has seen from the rookie.
“He looks good. He’s mobile”, he said. “He’s faster than people think, so that’s gonna be new for us and I think it’s gonna create plays. You see so many of Ja’Marr [Chase]’s plays and Tee [Higgins]’s plays are from Joe [Burrow] leaving the pocket, making plays happen. And you know, we’re young, we’re versatile, we’re dynamic, so he’s gonna add to that”.
Pickett, like the Bengals’ Burrow, took off during his senior season in college and put together by far career-best numbers. There are some other similarities in their game that have elicited some comparisons from time to time, but Burrow has already brought his team to the Super Bowl by his second season, so Pickett has a lot of catching up to do.
The Steelers had Pickett running third-string during OTAs and minicamp, also playing behind the returning Mason Rudolph, now in his fifth season. But the rookie will be given more high-quality opportunities as we transition to Latrobe for training camp.
Asked for his thoughts on the quarterbacks, Claypool wisely took the diplomatic approach, and said that he likes all three of those who are ostensibly vying for the starting job. When pressed which he would pick if he would have to pick one, he said the obvious, which is, “You know I can’t do that”.
Pittsburgh is in a season of major consequential transition, particularly under center with Ben Roethlisberger retiring after 18 seasons in the NFL. He started all but one game this past season, missing that game after testing positive for COVID-19. Outside of his major elbow injury in 2019, there hasn’t been a lot of playing time for other quarterbacks.
That’s why the Steelers cast a wide net this offseason, doing extensive work both in free agency and in the draft scouting their options. I’m willing to bet that they looked into opportunities to trade for a quarterback as well, even if they ultimately did not take that approach.
Thus far, they have come away with Trubisky and Pickett to add to Rudolph as potential 2022 starters, with Pickett obviously seen as the long-term answer. Fellow Pitt alum was also on the podcast and insisted that Pickett would start by Week 6 and basically be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but even Claypool called out bias on that one.