When Pittsburgh Steelers rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett went down in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Acrisure Stadium on a big hit from linebacker Devin White that ultimately landed him in concussion protocol, it forced backup quarterback and previous starter Mitch Trubisky into the lineup.
To Trubisky’s credit, he played extremely well in the second half, completing 9-of-12 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown to Chase Claypool, hooking up with rookie tight end Connor Heyward for a 45-yard catch and run, which happens to be the Steelers’ longest play from scrimmage offensively this season.
Now, entering Week 7 with a trip to Miami Sunday night to take on the Dolphins on Sunday Night Football, the Steelers seemingly have a quarterback controversy on their hands, at least to outsiders.
Head coach Mike Tomlin shut that thought down Tuesday during his weekly press conference, stating that if Pickett clears concussion protocol he’ll be the starting quarterback moving forward, but for former NFL quarterback and current NFL Network analyst David Carr, Tomlin and the Steelers should turn to Trubisky on Sunday night in Miami and see if he can replicate his performance from the Buccaneers game.
“Even if Pickett is cleared to play Sunday night in Miami, I think I’d still roll with Trubisky. I know that’s not the approach Mike Tomlin is taking, stating on Tuesday that Pickett will start if he gets the medical green light,” Carr stated in an article for NFL.com Wednesday morning. “I fully appreciate that it’s tough when teams go back and forth between starters, but Tomlin can avoid some of the scrutiny because of how well Trubisky played in Sunday’s win over the Bucs — and because of how the original benching went down. Sometimes it takes a reality check for urgency to ignite in a player, and I’m hoping that’s the case with Trubisky.
“Trubisky and Pickett are pretty similar players, but the former has more experience. Play the vet now. Worst-case scenario? You eventually turn back to Pickett, giving him the reins for good.”
Of course, Carr is referencing the report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac that Trubisky and wide receiver Diontae Johnson got into an altercation in the locker room during halftime of the Week 5 game against the New York Jets, leading to Tomlin benching the team captain at quarterback, turning to the rookie Pickett.
While it’s extremely likely there was a confrontation between the two in the locker room as frustrations boiled over, it’s very, very unlikely that Tomlin made the switch at quarterback based on a common occurrence in the locker room of professional sports teams.
Fact of the matter is Trubisky was not playing well enough leading up to the benching, and the Steelers needed a spark offensively. Pickett provided that, which led to him holding down the starting job moving forward.
As Carr writes, Trubiksy has more experience in the NFL and certainly played well Sunday against the Buccaneers. He deserves praise for that, but Tomlin doesn’t like to let guys lose their jobs due to injury, and it’s something players respect. Add in the fact that he’d be yo-yoing a rookie quarterback in and out of the line, shaking his confidence in the process, potentially hindering his development.
That point from Carr makes absolutely no sense. He should honestly have a better understanding of how that works, especially at that position. The toothpaste was already out of the tube at the position for the Steelers once the switch was made to Pickett. They can’t — and shouldn’t — go back now.
There is no controversy or decision. It’s Pickett’s job now.