This past season, the Pittsburgh Steelers had some turbulent quarterback play. At the start of the year Mitch Trubisky was the starter, who struggled leading to his benching for rookie Kenny Pickett. Pickett also struggled in his first few games but finished his season strong leading to some high hopes going into next season. Today, NFL.com released a ranking of all 68 quarterbacks who started a game from this past season heading into next year.
Pickett was the first of the two Steelers starters to appear on Marc Sessler’s list, slotting in at #25. Here’s what Sessler wrote.
“The Steelers can feel good about the future after seeing their rookie starter come into bloom inside an evolving offense. Pickett shined in crunch time, becoming the only first-year passer in league history to throw final-minute, game-winning touchdowns in back-to-back starts against the Raiders and Ravens. Sporadic and slightly unhinged out of the gate, the first-rounder finished as PFF’s top-rated thrower from Week 14 on.”
Pickett certainly struggled out of the gate which led to his critics coming out in full force by the bye week. In his first five appearances, Pickett threw two touchdowns and eight interceptions, with the Steelers only winning one game in those five games, the game which Trubisky came in relief for an injured Pickett.
However, Pickett turned it around after the bye week as the game continued to slow down for him. He led the Steelers to six wins and eight appearances (seven if we don’t count the Baltimore Ravens game where he was concussed on the first drive) and threw five touchdowns and only one interception. Pickett also led four game winning drives in his final eight games. He finished the season with a stat line of seven touchdowns, nine interceptions, and 2,404 passing yards. Pickett also ran for three touchdowns this past season, showing the mobility the ability to quarterback sneak Pittsburgh didn’t have with an aging Ben Roethlisberger.
Another thing to note about this list is while Pickett is ranked as the fourth best quarterback in the division, (Joe Burrow #3, Lamar Jackson #13, and Jacoby Brissett #21) he is ranked ahead of Deshaun Watson (28), the Cleveland Browns starter.
Trubisky also made the list given he started multiple games for the Steelers. On the season Trubisky posted a record of a 2-5 and threw four touchdowns, five interceptions, and for 1,252 yards. In Sessler’s opinion, Trubisky is the 33rd best quarterback in the NFL.
“Trubisky can be peddled as a potential starter until real games begin. He’s in a class of quarterbacks eternally destined to be benched for another option. The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly noted Trubisky looms as a release candidate for a Steelers team that adores Kenny Pickett and can save $8 million by chopping the low-ceilinged veteran.”
Trubisky very well could be a Steelers again next year, and having him as a back up is a good thing. While he didn’t look all that great as a starter, he is definitely is on the higher end of the tier list for back ups. When starting though, he couldn’t get the offense going which hurt them early on in the season. In relief for Pickett, he helped beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and won in a spot start against the Carolina Panthers in Week 15. However, what Trubisky may be most remembered for in his time in Pittsburgh is his three interception performance coming in for a concussed Pickett against the Baltimore Ravens which resulted in a 16-14 loss in Week 14.
End of the day, Pickett should be the Steelers started for a long time to come. What will be interesting is to see his development and where he eventually ends up not his list. #25 after a first season isn’t the worst thing isn’t the world. Can he end up top 15 or top ten in the coming years? If he can push towards top ten or higher the Steelers will likely be championship contenders if they can keep their defense in order.