Like most who follow the Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL Network’s Steve Mariucci believes Mitch Trubisky will take the first snaps under center this season. But he also believes Kenny Pickett will play sooner than later and should be the frontrunner for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Appearing on NFLN Sunday, Mariucci offered and explained that prediction.
“When I was watching film on this Kenny Pickett kid,” he said, “I made a note – this guy’s gonna be the Offensive Rookie of the Year. That’s how I felt watching him because I think he’s on a good team. They play some defense, they’ve got a runner over there in Najee Harris and they’ve got a chance to play with a young quarterback the way the team is built.”
Pickett’s had a strong summer and is making a late push for the starting gig out of the gate, though Trubisky would have to struggle mightily for that switch to actually be made. But any sort of pitfalls by Trubisky or the Steelers will lead to calls for Pickett to play and unless the Steelers get off to a hot start, Pickett’s likely to play sooner than later. That’s the scenario Mariucci laid out.
[Trubisky’s] gonna start. He’s a good kid. He’s got some experience. He does a lot of good things, but it’s gonna be like, ‘what have you done for me lately? What’s my record? Am I 5-1, do I keep my job or am I 2-4 and we start looking over at the rookie?'”
It’ll be interesting to see Tomlin handles the quarterback situation this year. He’s mentioned not wanting to give his starter a quick hook or have them feel like they’re looking over their shoulder after one bad game. Like the Steelers’ organization overall, Tomlin is likely to show patience. But as Tomlin says, football’s their game and their business is winning and if Pittsburgh isn’t doing that, even a cool customer like Tomlin will feel the heat to make a change. Pickett is going to start for this team and he’s earned that opportunity. There aren’t many compelling reasons for the team to wait that process out. But Tomlin’s never been in this situation before as a head coach so we’re all guessing as to the course he’ll take.
As for rookie of the year, Pickett is considered one of the frontrunners alongside the team’s second round pick wide receiver George Pickens. Though there’s always surprises, the OROY competition this year isn’t as fierce. It was a defensive-driven draft with the top five picks all being on that side of the ball: DE Travon Walker, DE Aidan Hutchinson, CB Derek Stingley Jr., CB Sauce Gardner, and DE Kayvon Thibodeaux. The next two picks were offensive line in tackles Ickem Eknowu and Evan Neal and though those guys probably deserve more looks, Rashawn Slater was a deserving candidate in 2021, a lineman taking home that trophy is unlikely. In fact, no offensive lineman has ever won the award. But for Pickett to do so, he’ll have to start sooner than later, likely be around Week 4, or else it’ll be an uphill battle against the rest of the field. Still, so long as he plays well, Steelers’ fans won’t care if Pickett does or doesn’t take home an ultimately meaningless trophy.