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2022 Training Camp Questions: Why Did Tomlin Pull Pickett Early And Play Rudolph In 2nd Half?

The Steelers are already out of training camp and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, informally known as the South Side facility. It’s where they otherwise train all year round, and the shift from Saint Vincent College for training camp back to Pittsburgh signals the approaching arrival of the regular season.

The team had a good few weeks of work up in Latrobe, but there are still unsettled questions that need answering. There are a few position battles yet to be determined, whether one considers the quarterback job up for grabs, or even remotely in the mix.

We’ve got yet another new offensive line with some incoming veterans in James Daniels and Mason Cole. Myles Jack is in at inside linebacker, replacing Joe Schobert, and we’ll have to see if Devin Bush can return to form after last year’s dismal display.

There’s still so much going on, and even coming out of training camp, we’ll only uncover more questions as we go along. We’ll be discussing them here on a daily basis for the community to “talk amongst yourselves”, as Linda Richman might say on Coffee Talk.

Question: Why did Mike Tomlin pull Kenny Pickett so early from Saturday’s game and play Mason Rudolph for an entire half?

Head coach Mike Tomlin gave all three of his competing quarterbacks roughly equal work, in terms of team reps, over the course of training camp, even if they were not equal in quality—Mitch Trubisky pretty much exclusively took first-team reps, for example.

In the preseason, the approach has been somewhat different. Trubisky has played, roughly, the first quarter, then either Kenny Pickett or Mason Rudolph has played, roughly, the second, with the other playing all of the second half.

It was assumed that with Pickett coming in second during Saturday’s game, he would play into the second half, having taken his first snap with under seven minutes to play in the second quarter. But Tomlin decided that he had seen enough in all of eight plays from his rookie first-round pick, and allowed the quarterback he knows more about than any not named Ben Roethlisberger to monopolize an entire half’s worth of in-game evaluation snaps.

Why?

Pickett has played about a couple dozen in-stadium snaps. Unless Tomlin is already resolved to not start Pickett at the beginning of the year, which appears to be the case, then on what grounds could it possibly be argued that anybody has seen enough?

I would wager that the most popular answer as to why Tomlin played Rudolph for an entire half at the expense of Pickett getting valuable playing time was to showcase him as trade bait. Maybe that’s at least part of it. Maybe that’s all of it.

But it still leaves me scratching my head. It seems to me to put the lie to the idea that there was ever an earnest quarterback ‘competition’ in the first place, which would certainly not be a controversial opinion. If Pickett were really competing to start in the opener, he would have played in the third quarter.

But he’s not.

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