Mike Tomlin spoke to the media Tuesday in his press conference prior to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Week 1 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. Tomlin started the presser talking about getting his team ready for the regular season while preparing to face off against a talented Cincinnati squad coming off a Super Bowl appearance.
Tomlin then went on to talk about the QB situation, naming Mitch Trubisky the starting QB a day after he was named a team captain and was listed as QB1 on the depth chart for Week 1. After singing Trubisky’s praises, Tomlin then addressed the status of his rookie QB Kenny Pickett and how his efforts helped him secure the backup spot behind Trubisky prior to the start of regular season action.
“Really pleased with the growth and development of Kenny,” Tomlin said on Pickett in the press conference, which aired live on the team’s YouTube channel. “That’s why he’s listed as #2. I thought his acceleration of development really took off once we stepped foot into stadiums. His decision making and the fluidity of it. His competitive spirit. His pinpoint accuracy. All of those things I thought really came to the forefront once we got into stadiums and I thought that he grew and grew at a really fast pace once we got into stadiums.”
Pickett notably struggled in the beginning stages of training camp as he tried to get a feel for the speed of the NFL game transitioning from playing college ball at Pitt. However, once he got acclimated to his new surroundings, the rookie passer took off, progressing each day in practice which became evident to all on the national stage in Pittsburgh’s three preseason games.
Pickett was in the zone during preseason play for the Steelers, showcasing poise in the pocket as well as the accuracy Tomlin mentioned above as he posted the best passer rating of any rookie QB in preseason play since 2015, completing 29-of-36 attempts for 261 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. He successfully led Pittsburgh to two TDs in the two-minute offense, one coming in the preseason opener against the Seahawks at the end of the game and the other coming right before the half against the Jaguars the following week.
While Kenny Pickett may not have been named the starter to open the season, he has met and surpassed the expectations of the coaching staff the last several weeks, making the decision a more difficult one than many expected it to be. It’s commonplace for teams to roll with a veteran and let the rookie sit initially before throwing him out into the fire. Pittsburgh did the same thing with Ben Roethlisberger back in 2004, so the decision to have Pickett as the #2 comes as no slight in his abilities as a QB. Needless to say, Tomlin has been impressed with Pickett thus far, and expects him to continue to grow in the role he will be in to start the 2022 season.
“And I also think it’s reasonable to expect that growth and development to continue into as we push into the regular season,” Tomlin continued on Pickett. “Just really excited on where he is and what he’s capable of.”