We are now in the midst of OTA’s with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and obviously the huge development yesterday was in regards to the stunning retirement of defensive end Stephon Tuitt. He seemed to be giving mixed signals regarding his potential return from knee injury, as well as the tragic death of his brother via a hit-and-run vehicle accident. This news, the Diontae Johnson contract saga, as well as the physique of Pro Bowl running back Najee Harris, have been many of the storylines thus far in mandatory minicamp. However, as the hour glass on these minicamps shortens, perhaps the “elephant in the room” is in regards to who exactly will be under center starting at the most pivotal position in football?
For the first time in 18 seasons, this question is at the forefront, as for almost two decades they had a set-it-and-forget-it starter in Pro Bowler and multi-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger guiding the offense. The QB room now boasts impressive pedigree, as the team signed the #2 overall pick from the ’17 draft, Mitch Trubisky, and obviously spent their first-round draft choice this year on the hometown Heisman finalist, Kenny Pickett. Both possess many of the same measurables, including mobility, which will be a key element in truly unlocking Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada’s playbook. Perhaps that’s why Judy Battista, of NFL.com, cited the QB battle that’s unfolding now and will continue later this summer at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe as one of several key storylines as minicamps roll on.
“Kenny Pickett, will eventually be the starter — the only question is how quickly he will be ready, and if Mitchell Trubisky is still the better option,” Battista wrote this morning on NFL.com. “In the space of two offseasons, the Steelers have almost completely remade their offense, and Pickett’s ascendance — particularly because he was the only quarterback chosen in the first round this year — will be closely watched.”
Hailed by many as the most pro-ready QB in this year’s draft, it’s clear Pickett will eventually be the guy, otherwise the team wouldn’t have invested precious first-round ammo on him. However, Trubisky isn’t likely to simply roll over and hand over the keys to the castle, and a career resurgence shouldn’t entirely be out of the question. Surrounded by far less talent and skill position players in Chicago, Trubisky led the team to the playoffs twice, and even made the Pro Bowl in 2018. He took a backup spot to Buffalo Bills’ MVP candidate Josh Allen last season, while also getting coached up by noted QB whisperer Brian Daboll, who’s now the Head Coach of the New York Giants.
Now in Pittsburgh, with an overhauled offensive line, several skill position draft picks, and a few key free agent defensive signings, whoever takes the starting reigns should be in line to succeed. Battista also cited the changes on defense as something to hone in on, as longtime Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler retired and was replaced by in-house candidate Teryl Austin. Keep in mind that the team signed former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores to fill a senior defensive assistant role, so it’ll be interesting to see how the two work together to fill Tuitt’s shoes, be it with in-house options like Chris Wormley or draft pick DeMarvin Leal, or an outside free agent such as Sheldon Richardson.