A little over a month from now, Mitch Trubisky, Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph will re-engage in a quarterback competition for the starting job in the black and gold at the foot of the rolling hills of Saint Vincent College on Chuck Noll Field as the Pittsburgh Steelers gear up for another season in the NFL.
For now, the starting job appears to be Trubisky’s to lose after the veteran quarterback signed a two-year deal in free agency with the Steelers on the first day of the legal tampering window in NFL free agency. Through OTAs and mandatory minicamp, Trubisky received all of the first-team reps for the Steelers, giving him a leg up heading into training camp.
However, Pickett — the 20th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft — will have a chance at winning the starting job. Though he’s coming right out of college and is learning a new team and a relatively new system (much like Trubisky), the Steelers are enamored by him, according to ESPN NFL insider Dan Graziano, and it’s not out of the question that the former Pitt star wins the job and opens the 2022 season on Sept. 11 on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals as the Steelers’ starting quarterback.
“Mike Tomlin’s a head coach that’s never had a losing season as an NFL head coach. He doesn’t plan on having one now. I think he likes his options, right?” Graziano said on ESPN’s Get Up Thursday morning with hosts Mike Greenberg and former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III, according to video via ESPN. “Trubisky, coming off the year as a backup in Buffalo, ideally learned some stuff. They feel like he’s a guy that’s operated in multiple systems and can pick theirs up quickly.
“Kenny Pickett, a first-round pick. They like everything about him,” Graziano added, according to video via ESPN. “They are very open to the idea that Pickett can win the job with a strong camp. He starts from behind, but it’s not out of the question he comes and wins the job before the start of the season or early in the season.”
It’s certainly not out of the question, and it hasn’t been since the Steelers selected the 2021 Heisman Trophy Finalist with the 20th pick in the draft.
Trubisky is going to be given every opportunity possible to win the job and hit the field Week 1 against the Bengals as the starting quarterback. That’s largely why he signed in Pittsburgh, even if he knew there was a chance the Steelers drafted a quarterback in the first round. He has the pedigree to win the job, that being the former No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, along with a 29-21 record as a starting quarterback with the Chicago Bears, going to the postseason twice in the Windy City.
Make no mistake though: the intended future in the Steel City is Pickett. He was very clearly the Steelers’ top quarterback on their board in the draft process, and him falling to them at No. 20 overall was a bit of a surprise to everyone involved. He lands in an ideal situation though, one that fits him schematically overall in second-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s offensive system.
Pickett has a long road ahead though, especially after receiving third-team reps in OTAs and minicamp behind Trubisky and Rudolph. Of course, strong play will force the Steelers’ hand. It’s unlikely Pickett opens the season as the Week 1 starter, but don’t rule it out entirely.