Just one home game into Kenny Pickett’s career and fans are already chanting his name. With Mitch Trubisky struggling through his first home start as a Pittsburgh Steelers, the Arcisure Stadium crowd repeatedly chanted “Kenny!” throughout the game. Mike Tomlin isn’t hearing those chants, and as Ben Roethlisberger tells it, the boo-birds are unfair to Trubisky.
In the fourth episode of his new podcast Footbahlin, Roethlisberger said Trubisky’s play didn’t warrant boos.
“They started chanting Kenny,” he said recapping the Steelers’ loss. “I just don’t think it’s fair that it happened to Mitch today because I wouldn’t blame Mitch for the performance today. Did he miss a couple throws? Yes. Every quarterback misses a couple throws. I just saw Aaron Rodgers miss a throw and he’s one of the greatest to ever play. It’s going to happen sometimes.”
Trubisky and the Steelers’ offense struggled for the second straight week, posting just 14 points in Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots. Trubisky finished 21/33 for 168 yards, an average of just 5.1 yards per attempt, with one touchdown and one interception, the latter being his first of the season.
As Roethlisberger noted, the chants and calls for Pickett come as no surprise. He’s the first-round pick, the local player, the guy fans want to see. Trubisky is the veteran, another franchise’s first-round pick, and holding the spot until the team deems Pickett ready for action. Fans often have the least amount of patience, and a poor outing like Trubisky was bound to elicit calls for a change. But Roethlisberger doesn’t believe Trubisky played as poorly as fans think.
“Did he play his best game? No. Did he play his worst game? No. I don’t think he deserved the fans getting on him today. Because sometimes, you’re playing within the system. And I’m not trying to say it’s on Matt Canada either. But sometimes if he’s looking downfield and nobody’s there, you’re taking the checkdown.”
The two people in the Steelers’ organization taking the most heat after the loss are Trubisky and OC Matt Canada. Dividing up blame between the two can be tough to do, and it often depends on the specific play and concept. Later this week, we’ll have a video addressing times where the blame falls on Trubisky and times where it falls more on Canada.
Fans will keep booing until either the Steelers win again or until Pickett is named the starter. The latter isn’t likely to happen for awhile. Mike Tomlin has the most patience of anyone in the city to stick with Trubisky, and as long as Pittsburgh remains competitive – they’re the AFC North leaders two weeks into the year – with Trubisky not being miserable with multiple turnovers, he will remain the team’s starter. But every mistake going forward will bring boos. The best thing to quiet that noise is to win. Getting a victory on the road against the Cleveland Browns Thursday night would go a long ways to stopping the boos. Until the next bad game, at least.
Check out the entire podcast below. This is Part One of a two part series with former Steelers’ RB Merril Hoge.