The Pittsburgh Steelers’ quest to find a starting quarterback for the 2022 season has more or less been regarded as a two-horse race since the start of free agency when the team signed Mitch Trubisky. It’s just that the horses changed when they drafted Kenny Pickett in the first round, with Mason Rudolph fading into the background in terms of how outsiders viewed the competition.
In terms of how things have actually played out on the field during the past several weeks though, it’s been pretty decisive. Trubisky has been running the show, and looking like a veteran, because, of course, he is the experienced player, and Pickett is not.
“I don’t think that it’s a knock on Kenny”, said Arthur Moats on 93.7 The Fan with Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller last week. “I think it’s more so just a big tip to the cat to Mitch Trubisky. I think what he’s been doing since he’s come here has really shown what the difference is between a guy that’s been a pro, that’s been in this league for multiple years, versus a rookie”.
A first-round draft pick back in 2017, Trubisky led the Chicago Bears to a 29-21 overall showing as the quarterback of record. He helped them advance to the postseason twice. Yet Chicago didn’t pick up his fifth-year option, and he spent the 2021 season as a cheap backup to Josh Allen in Buffalo.
Somehow that year with the Bills has been spun as a feather in Trubisky’s cap, the maturity part of his story arc that has prepared him for his next chapter. The real test will come once he actually gets in games and has to face NFL defenses who have a plan, but for the time being, he has been looking the part.
“It was really clear who the main guy was and who was kind of third in that list”, Moats said of Trubisky. “But it’s not to say that Kenny can’t grow into that. It’s just that Mitch is a more proven prospect. He’s further down that line. He’s already been through what Kenny is going through right now”. Ultimately, he said of the competition in June, Pickett “didn’t do anything to me that would’ve closed that gap against Mitch Trubisky, but more so because of how well Mitch Trubisky played during spring practices”.
Unlike how some others have painted it, however, Moats acknowledged that spring expectations for Pickett ought to have been rather low. Nobody should have been expecting him to come in right away and take over and look like Joe Burrow did during the postseason in 2021. He was only drafted barely over a month ago. He’s learning. Trubisky is in year six, with about as many different schemes in his rearview mirror.
“When you talk about Mitch, he’s been able to combine the two”, Moats said, referring to showing that off-field leadership while also exhibiting the on-field talent to back it up. “When you talk about how he’s been acting, I can tell you firsthand from what I’ve seen seeing that, yeah, he operates like a QB1. But he looks like he’s done this before, because he has”.
And Pickett hasn’t. Not at the NFL level. And there is a huge difference between being a leader on a college campus and trying to carry that over into the National Football League. No matter how big your college program is, there is hardly a comparison when it comes to the stakes that are involved, the length of time invested—and just the sheer level of expectation that comes with being the best of the best of the best.
College rosters are made up of the very best high school players in the country. And NFL roster are made up of the very best college players in the country. Fractions upon fractions. Everyone in the NFL was the best in college. Everyone in college was the best in high school. There’s no equivocation in the NFL. You’re either the guy or you’re not.