When you draft a quarterback in the first round, you can only hope that it costs you half a billion dollars down the road. Because if you’re throwing that kind of money around, that means that you’re paying the market price for greatness at the most important position in the game.
Looking around the AFC North and seeing the likes of Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow and Deshaun Watson, either on the verge of being paid very handsomely or having already been compensated so, Omar Khan, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ general manager, only hopes he has the same problem.
Or, “Absolutely”, as he told Pat McAfee on the Pittsburgh native’s show. “Absolutely, absolutely”.
The intended recipient of that exorbitant windfall would be Kenny Pickett, of course, the Pitt quarterback whom the Steelers selected with the 20th-overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Although he is only competing for the starting job to open his rookie season, the organization has every intention of seeing him have a very long and successful starting career.
For the time being, he is in a battle for the job with Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph, all of whom are looking to succeed Ben Roethlisberger as the Steelers’ quarterback, a job that he held onto for the better part of two decades, a rare outcome Khan doesn’t take for granted, even if he’s enjoying the process of what has followed his retirement.
“Ben was a great player for us. 18 years, loved having him around, we had a lot of success with him”, he told McAfee. “You get spoiled when you have a guy of Ben’s ability for so long. But I can tell you that this camp, it’s been a lot of fun watching these guys compete”.
“Mitch and Kenny and Mason, and even Chris [Oladokun], it’s just been a lot of fun”, Khan added. “It’s exciting, and I’m excited about what’s to come, excited to see what’s gonna happen the next couple preseason games”.
Trubisky, a veteran free agent with significant starting experience, has functioned as the first-string quarterback since he first stepped onto the practice field. He opened the first quarter of their first preseason game and played two drives, including an opening-drive score.
Rudolph followed him and played out the first half, leading two scoring drives, one an explosive-play touchdown to George Pickens and the other a field goal following a stalled drive into the red zone. Pickett played all of the second half and led two touchdown drives, including the game-winning drive in the final minute.
How the reps will be distributed in the final two preseason games, perhaps only head coach Mike Tomlin knows for sure. Will they have the same pecking order? Perhaps not. I would guess that at least Rudolph and Pickett will be flipped in one of them, even if Trubisky continues to lead off.