The Pittsburgh Steelers entering training camp have one of the biggest stories in all of the NFL: who is going to be their next quarterback following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger after 18 seasons in the league? They signed Mitch Trubisky as a veteran and drafted Kenny Pickett in the first round, but they also have Mason Rudolph from last year’s team. Could the guy who touched the ball more than anyone last year have any insight?
“I’m just a player, I’m not the coach. I don’t know anything about that”, second-year running back Najee Harris told Rich Eisen on his show on Wednesday when asked about the state of the Steelers’ quarterback competition. “I’m trying to learn the offense still, learn different positions, learn more of the ins and outs on offense. I think we can leave that up to Coach [Matt] Canada and Mike [Tomlin] for all that stuff”.
However, he doesn’t seem to think that it’s going to be a long, drawn-out process. After all, there really isn’t all that much time in training camp to carry out both a full-fledged quarterback competition and assemble a new offense simultaneously.
“When this camp starts up on the 26th, I think we’re gonna have a good identity of who’s gonna be the guy”, he said. “As of now, we just had OTAs, minicamp, it’s kind of hard to say who’s the guy right now. But this upcoming week, we’re gonna see for sure”.
Trubisky worked as the team’s first-team quarterback throughout the spring, while Pickett, the rookie, primarily operated as the third-string quarterback, though comments by Rudolph during OTAs suggest that it wasn’t so dogmatically hierarchical as that might sound.
It’s typical for rookies not to be thrown into ‘starting’ positions immediately unless it’s very clear from the word go that they are the starter, the way Harris himself was a year ago. That’s not the case for Pickett, and that’s a situation the Steelers wanted to make sure they avoided, which is why they went out and signed Trubisky in the first place. But the back has seen the effort from all of them.
“All the guys that we have there, they all look good. Trubisky, Mason, and of course Kenny. All of them look good, they’re all battling it out. They’re all taking charge. They’re all embracing what it is, the competition”, he told Eisen. “For them to bring these guys in and battle it out and know that your job isn’t secured yet, I think that brings the best out of us”.
The Steelers’ investment in Pickett means it’s overwhelmingly likely that he is going to get his short at being the team’s starting quarterback at some point in his career. It’s not impossible that that point is the 2022 season opener. But it’s widely been expected that Trubisky will open the season as the starter, even if Pickett takes over the job at some point over the course of the year.