There isn’t a lot that you don’t experience during a 15-year span as an NFL head coach. And yet here Mike Tomlin finds himself, going into year 16 with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and for the first time in his entire head coaching career, he has had to pick a new starting quarterback—as well as scout the candidates, both in free agency and the draft.
They came away with Mitch Trubisky as a veteran free agent, whom almost everybody at this point expects will start Week 1, but in the draft, they drafted Kenny Pickett in the first round. He has shown strong indications that he could be ready to start right now. New general manager Omar Khan knows it’s not his place to make that decision, but he’s pleased with the rookie, and the entire room.
“Coach is gonna make the decision and decide who’s starting week in and week out. That’s his decision”, he told Bryant McFadden yesterday on All Things Covered. “But obviously we think very highly of Kenny, who’s a first-round pick. I think that says a lot. But his progression’s been great. He works hard every day, he’s learning every day, he’s growing every day”.
Despite the praise and continued progression from Pickett, it is widely expected that Trubisky will be named the starter for opening day, even if it’s only a matter of time before the rookie gets the opportunity to start—though not necessarily while he’s still a rookie.
There is also, of course, Mason Rudolph, who did perform generally well throughout the offseason process, and indeed, at points of which, he was arguably the best of the bunch. He also had the most experience with the team and with the system, however, so he should have reasonably had an advantage.
Khan told McFadden that he doesn’t anticipate any changes in the room (e.g., he doesn’t intend to trade Rudolph), and part of that is because of the fact that they believe they have a strong three-quarterback group—each of whom could start if called upon.
“We really like our room. We have three starter-capable guys in that room between Mitch and Mason and Kenny”, he said. “We feel there’s a bright future for us with respect to that position, but time will tell. There’s still a lot of football to be played”.
That’s a comment that’s going to raise a few eyebrows, I’m sure. Now, if they had the offensive line of 2016 or so, perhaps this is a different conversation, but with the group that they have protecting the quarterbacks right now, the job of the quarterback position is much more difficult than it could be, and hopefully will be in the near future.