Based on the way the offseason has shaped up for the Pittsburgh Steelers at the quarterback position, new quarterback Kenny Pickett — the 20th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft — is being handled with kid gloves overall.
Throughout OTAs and mandatory minicamp, the Steelers have slowly put more on Pickett’s plate while letting him learn behind the likes of veteran free agent signee Mitch Trubisky and veteran holdover Mason Rudolph. During the offseason, Pickett landed third-team reps behind Trubisky and Rudolph.
With just two weeks until the start of Steelers’ training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pickett will have a tough time competing for the starting job at quarterback for the black and gold. It’s all part of a plan for the Steelers, according ESPN NFL Nation beat Brooke Pryor.
Appearing on ESPN’s Get Up! Thursday morning with host Mike Greenberg, former NFL defensive lineman Chris Canty, and ESPN Insider Jeff Darlington, Pryor talked about the Steelers’ handling of Pickett to this point, stating that the Steelers are going to be methodical in bringing along their big investment at the position.
Pryor also stated that, for now, based on everything she’s seen in OTAs and minicamp, Trubisky is the starting quarterback “until further notice.”
“From the conversations that I’ve had with the organization, I believe that Mitch Trubisky is going to be the starting quarterback. He’s kind of the starting quarterback until further notice. And that’s also based on what I saw in OTAs and minicamp,” Pryor said to Greenberg, according to video via ESPN NFL Nation’s official YouTube page. “Mitch Trubisky has taken first team reps every single time. Mason Rudolph second, Kenny Pickett third. They’re trying to be methodical in the way they bring Kenny Pickett along, but they’re not gonna rush him. They don’t have a bad option in Mitch Trubisky to start and he doesn’t have to be the one to take them to the playoffs.”
How the Steelers are handling Pickett is very similar to how the Steelers brought along Ben Roethlisberger as a rookie in the 2004 season. That year, as the Steelers entered training camp, Roethlisberger was the third-team quarterback behind Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch, which seems more and more shocking the further removed from that season.
Of course, Batch went down with an injury, elevating Roethlisberger to the No. 2 role behind Maddox. Then, Maddox tore up his elbow against the Baltimore Ravens, leading to Roethlisberger stepping into the lineup and going on a remarkable run, leading the Steelers to a 15-1 record and an appearance in the AFC championship game.
Pickett’s tenure might not play out like that, but the Steelers know what works when it comes to development, even if Mike Tomlin and Matt Canada weren’t around for the start of the Roethlisberger era. Bringing a young quarterback along slowly, especially a first-round investment, in a situation like the Steelers find themselves in with veterans ahead of him, is the right thing to do.
In the end, it could pay off in a big way for Pickett and the black and gold in the future.