Just like that, it all comes down to this in the battle to be the next starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Sunday’s preseason finale at Acrisure Stadium against the Detroit Lions will serve as the final test for quarterbacks Mitch Trubisky, Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph in their efforts to claim the starting job for the black and gold, who will open the 2022 regular season on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals Sept. 11 at 1 p.m.
To date, the belief remains that Trubisky — signed in the offseason as a free agent — will be the man under center to open the year, but Pickett is coming on strong in his rookie season and is making a case for the starting job for the black and gold.
Still, head coach Mike Tomlin is treating Sunday’s finale against the Lions as if the starting quarterback job remains an open competition, and that performance on the field Sunday will play a significant role in the decision regarding who is the man moving forward for the 2022 season.
It won’t come down to just on-field performance though. Sitting down with Steelers.com’s Bob Labriola Sunday morning, Tomlin discussed just what will go into the decision at quarterback, something Tomlin hasn’t had to do in the preseason during his tenure with the Steelers due to the steady presence of Ben Roethlisberger.
“Performance. The ability to lead. The ability to do the things, the unwritten things, or the informal things that the job prescribes for them to do,” Tomlin said to Labriola, according to Steelers.com. “To assist in the growth and development of young, offensive eligibles and things of that nature. But ultimately, it’s production, and the things that are critical at that position are the ability to anticipate with pinpoint NFL-like accuracy, what you do as plays break down or as you extend plays. Are you able to minimize negativity while also having the potential for splash? Those are the variables.
“All the guys have represented themselves very well. I’ve been pleased with the playmaking, but it kind of comes to a close as we walk out of the stadium today, and it’s time to make some hardcore decisions and move forward. But I’ll say this, it’s not necessarily decision-making, it’s just really calling what you see. And the guys hold the power, the quality or play is a determining factor, and so I’m excited for him.”
Tomlin has discussed what he’s looking for before during questions surrounding the starting quarterback job in the Steel City, so none of what he said comes as a true surprise. That said, it sounds a lot like he’s Pickett, no?
Previously, Tomlin praised Pickett’s pinpoint, NFL-like accuracy and ability to make decisions quickly, while also being a strong leader and raising those around him. The comments from Tomlin Sunday morning sure did raise some eyebrows, at least my own.
The more and more I think about the quarterback competition, the further I lean towards Pickett being the guy — and needing to be the guy. He’s shown the Steelers everything they’ve wanted to see from the rookie signal caller throughout the offseason, training camp and especially in the preseason.
He’s shown that ability to anticipate, throw with pinpoint, NFL-like accuracy and has done a solid job of leading the second- and third-team offenses during his time on the field. He’s ready, and there’s no reason to keep him off the field at this point.
We’ll see how he performs Sunday afternoon against the Lions. If he has another showing like he did against the Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars, it would be hard to not insert him into the starting lineup right away.