Ah, there’s nothing like dissecting May ‘football-like activities’, as head coach Mike Tomlin would say. And the task of doing the dissection at this time of year falls squarely upon the shoulders of those who have access to the field and the opportunity to write about what they see—the beat writers.
You’re going to be seeing, if you haven’t already, a series of lists of ‘winners and losers’ emerging from the past few weeks of practices for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Athletic recently put one up for the quarterback position, with Mark Kaboly concluding that Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph were the two ‘winners’ of the position—and rookie Kenny Pickett the ‘loser’.
“Pickett being the third-string quarterback throughout was a little surprising considering what the Steelers invested in the former Pitt quarterback”, he wrote in part. “If you are going to nitpick, you can make an argument that the ball didn’t come out of Pickett’s hands as cleanly at times as Trubisky and Rudolph, but that’s something that could go along with getting the ball out of his hands a lot quicker than he did in college”.
Kaboly did add that there was a “huge caveat” to Pickett’s ‘loser’ status, writing that “maybe we were expecting to see Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett emerge in the spring”. I’m not quite sure why that would have been the expectation, though. There will never not be a rookie learning curve.
Of course, just like my ‘stock watch’ series, the ‘winner and loser’ format is a boilerplate template that simplifies the process of categorization, even if it doesn’t always neatly fit into the context of any given subject.
That Pickett would be a ‘loser’ during his rookie OTA sessions really shouldn’t mean much one way or another. It might be a little more concerning at the end of his first training camp, but the focus during May and June is simply getting young players acclimated.
“If this was indeed the learning stage portion of Tomlin’s grand plan, then it makes plenty of sense”, Kaboly acknowledged in his analysis of the rookie quarterback. “Still, you would like to see Pickett have more of an opportunity to shine than he did”.
When we get to training camp, I think we can take it as a given that the units will be more mixed, and Pickett will be working with more wide receivers like Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool rather than Tyler Vaughns and Cody White. And he’ll receive protection from James Daniels instead of Nate Gilliam.
So nobody panic, just yet…not that I’m expecting that anybody is. No, Pickett probably didn’t look like a Heisman Trophy finalist over the past few weeks. But I’m not sure Joe Burrow would have during his rookie OTAs, either—if he had one.