The Steelers lost their second straight game Thursday, and their offense has been held under 20 points in each of their three contests. Mike Tomlin remains committed to Mitch Trubisky as his starter, however.
Tomlin said postgame he is “definitively” not planning to make a quarterback change. The 16th-year Steelers HC went further before his team’s Week 3 game. Tomlin’s plan is to stick with Trubisky throughout the season and give Kenny Pickett a true redshirt year, according to Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer (h/t Awful Announcing), who adds Tomlin told him, “This is Trubisky’s team.”
This endorsement says a lot about the Steelers’ Pickett timeline, and while it would still be stunning if the team sat its first-round quarterback throughout the season, Tomlin’s pregame and postgame stances makes it look like a long NFL onramp is indeed being built for this year’s No. 20 overall pick. This plan would qualify as a zag compared to how most teams have handled first-round quarterbacks over the past decade.
Although Jordan Love and Patrick Mahomes (save for a Week 17 cameo five years ago) were able to go through full-on redshirt years, their respective teams had solid-to-excellent (in Aaron Rodgers‘ case) starters. Trubisky checks in well below the Rodgers or Chiefs-years Alex Smith level. The Steelers, however, not entertaining a Pickett promotion during their upcoming mini-bye effectively affirms their view of the local rookie’s progress.
Pickett played well during the preseason, but Trubisky was viewed as the first-stringer throughout the offseason. The Pitt product also was a four-year starter at the ACC school that shares a home stadium with the Steelers, giving Tomlin and Co. a fairly good indication of his readiness. Pickett sitting throughout would still surprise, given that this is his age-24 season and his upside outpaces Trubisky’s at this point in the latter’s career.
Trubisky only spent one season as a full-time college starter — at North Carolina in 2016 — but was among the bevy of first-round picks to take their NFL team’s reins early in his first season. The Bears gave him the call in Week 5 of the 2017 campaign. Excluding the Mahomes-Love-Trey Lance genre of rookie QB and the two first-rounders who did not hold down the job after seeing first-string action as rookies (Johnny Manziel, Paxton Lynch), every first-round QB since 2012 has been given a genuine first-season run as a starter.
Should the Steelers insist on Pickett sitting in 2022, they do have third-stringer Mason Rudolph in place. The team passed on trade interest in its fifth-year reserve arm. With Pickett having leapfrogged Rudolph on the depth chart, it would surprise if the longtime Ben Roethlisberger backup usurped Trubisky anytime soon.
Pickett questions will likely continue for the Steelers, whose offense appears to have a low ceiling as presently constructed. Then again, the franchise prioritizing Pickett’s growth over 2022 success would make sense as a long-term plan. This latest report certainly makes Pittsburgh’s Roethlisberger succession plan more interesting.