Once the balls are in the air and the pads are clacking within the hallowed valley on Chuck Noll Field at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe in late July, all the league’s attention will seemingly be on the quarterback position for the Pittsburgh Steelers under head coach Mike Tomlin.
For good reason, too.
With Ben Roethlisberger out the door into retirement, the onus falls on the likes of Mitch Trubisky, Kenny Pickett, and Mason Rudolph to assume the mantle with a three-way quarterback battle in training camp to determine the starting quarterback to open the season Sept. 11 on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals.
It might not be the biggest names battling it out, but at the most important position in sports, and with one of the most iconic franchises in NFL history, it will have all the attention this summer.
Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson tends to agree, calling the three-way quarterback battle not only its top quarterback competition this summer, but the top battle overall in training camps across the NFL.
“The only first-round quarterback in this year’s draft, Pickett, will be starting sooner or later, but the Steelers gave themselves a runway by signing Trubisky from free agency. The rookie was evidently seen as the only passer from this class who had a chance to start and succeed early, but there were some concerning elements to his college tape — chief among them was a 3.2-second average time to throw last season that settled at 3.08 seconds for his entire college career,” PFF’s Sam Monson writes regarding the Steelers’ quarterback battle.
“The longest average time to throw in the NFL last season was 3.2 seconds, and it’s a trait that typically gets worse initially for young quarterbacks,” Monson added. “There’s a good chance that Pickett may hold onto the ball to an extreme degree when he first gets behind an offensive line that blocked for the league’s fastest average time to throw a season ago. That might be enough to buy Trubisky a little time as the starter, but if Pickett can surprise, the team has all the motivation in the world to elevate him to the starting job.”
Monson is correct in stating that, sooner or later, Pickett is going to be the Steelers’ starting quarterback. When that is though, whether that’s 2022 or 2023, remains anyone’s guess right now.
The concerns about Pickett’s slow release are real, especially behind a shaky offensive line that struggled to protect Ben Roethlisberger last season, who had the quickest release in the NFL. Pickett can play a bit slow at times, and as Monson points out that’s not something that a quarterback typically gets better at long-term. In fact, release times tend to get slower the older quarterbacks get historically. Playing in Matt Canada’s system though, the release times could improve for Pickett once he sees the field due to the quick reads and short routes in the offense overall.
For now, it certainly appears that it’s Trubisky’s job to lose in training camp as the veteran free agent signee is going to be given every opportunity to win the job and perform on the field, as was pitched to him prior to inking a two-year deal with the Steelers. Of course, with so much invested in Pickett though, if the former Pitt star impresses in camp, a new era could start earlier than expected in the Steel City.