All 2022 NFL team training camps should be underway by the middle of next week and with that, ESPN.com decided on Sunday to drop a post revolving around their NFL Nation reporters breaking down key storylines and predictions for all 32 teams. That means that Brooke Pryor needed to list a prediction concerning the Pittsburgh Steelers and hers centered on rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, the team’s first round draft pick.
Pryor predicted that Pickett will ultimately finish this year’s training camp as the Steelers third-string quarterback behind veterans Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph. Below is her reason for doing so.
Kenny Pickett will finish camp as the Steelers’ No. 3 quarterback. Pickett, the Steelers’ first-round pick, took third-string reps throughout minicamp and OTAs, and with Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph in front of him, there’s a good chance he finishes training camp in the same place. With two other veteran quarterbacks on the roster, the Steelers aren’t rushing Pickett’s development. They can afford to be patient with the rookie and put him in a position to take over in the future by moving him along slowly and deliberately in his first year in the NFL. Trubisky has plenty of starting quarterback experience and is already emerging as a leader — plus his skill set matches offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s preference for pre-snap motion and quick throws. Rudolph looked steady in offseason training and was more consistent than Pickett.
Pryor’s prediction is not as bold as several might make it out to be. In fact, I have even stated a few times this offseason that we could indeed see Pickett start his rookie season as the Steelers third-string quarterback in Week 1 if Rudolph isn’t cut or traded by then. Obviously, if Rudolph is ultimately cut or traded by Week 1, Pickett would open the 2022 regular season as the backup to Trubisky, at worst.
While Pickett was deemed the most NFL-ready of all the quarterbacks in the 2022 draft class after playing nearly five full seasons at the University of Pittsburgh, he’s still not a lock to be active come Week 1 if Rudolph remains on the Steelers roster all throughout the summer. He should, however, have a legitimate opportunity to beat out Rudolph for the backup job during training camp and the preseason.
It’s important to remember that after the Steelers drafted quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft that the team’s original plan was for him to be the team’s third-string quarterback his rookie season behind veterans Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch. Those plans, however, went to the wayside during the 2004 summer due to Batch having a knee issue that required surgery. That Batch injury resulted in Roethlisberger opening the 2004 regular season as Maddox’s backup. Roethlisberger then took over as the Steelers starter after Maddox suffered a serious elbow injury in Week 2. The rest, as they say, is history.
When the Steelers open their training camp next, it will be interesting to see the initial quarterback pecking order and within that, if Pickett manages to get many second-string snaps before the team’s first preseason game takes place on august 13. Additionally, with the Steelers already knowing quite a bit about Rudolph at this point in his career, it will be interesting to see if he ultimately receives much playing time in the team’s three preseason games. Those three games figure to be Pickett’s best shot when it comes to him possibly winning the backup job over Rudolph come Week 1.
The Steelers 2022 regular season gets underway exactly seven weeks from today. That Week 1 game will be on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals. 90 minutes ahead of kickoff of that game, we’ll find out if Pickett is one of the team’s inactive players for the contest. There’s a decent chance he’ll indeed be on that list. The Steelers report to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe on Tuesday for the start of their 2022 training camp.