The question posed as the headline of this article is what every Pittsburgh Steelers fan wants to know. You don’t draft a quarterback with your top pick, 20th overall, just to have him be a perennial backup. This doesn’t mean Kenny Pickett will be the full-time starter in Week 1 of his rookie season, but the question remains...
When will Kenny Pickett take over as the Steelers quarterback?
At ESPN, they asked this very question to those who cover teams with rookie quarterbacks. Brooke Pryor, who is the beat reporter for the Steelers for ESPN, took the honors with answering the key questions for the fan base.
Let’s get the background information every fan knows out of the way...
Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers
Drafted: Round 1, No. 20
Competition to start: Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph
So, according to Pryor, what are the odds Pickett is the Week 1 starter when the Steelers travel to Paul Brown Stadium to play the AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals?
Chance of winning the starting job in Week 1: 2%. Throughout OTAs and minicamp, Pickett consistently took third-string reps behind Trubisky and Rudolph. To supplant Trubisky as the starter by Week 1, Pickett would have to be the second coming of Johnny Unitas as soon as he hits training camp. That’s not happening. And that’s OK — the Steelers don’t need to rush Pickett’s development.
Trubisky has looked comfortable and confident throughout offseason workouts, and his early rapport with the locker room signals that he’ll be a leader on this team. Add in the fact that the Steelers open on the road against the AFC champion Bengals, and it’s even more likely Trubisky begins as the starter.
Clearly Pryor doesn’t foresee the Steelers throwing Pickett out right away, but is there a chance he does nothing but hold a clipboard his entire rookie season?
Chance of sitting all season: 40%. The Steelers must believe Pickett is the future of the organization; otherwise, they wouldn’t have selected him in the first round. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the immediate future. If the Steelers navigate the season-opening gauntlet that includes games in Cincinnati and Cleveland, along with home games against Tampa Bay and New England, and Trubisky isn’t losing them games, they should stick with him.
If the Steelers can field a strong defense and improved offensive line to aid running back Najee Harris, they just need a steady quarterback who doesn’t make big mistakes. Assuming Trubisky has truly matured and learned a lot in Buffalo behind Josh Allen, he’ll be that guy.
With a 40% chance of sitting all year, there is a 60% chance, according to Pryor, Pickett does start in 2022. So, what game would be the best choice, or best guess, for Pickett to start?
Best prediction for first NFL start: Week 18 vs. Cleveland Browns. Truthfully, I have two weeks circled as possible 2022 NFL debuts for Pickett. The first is Week 10 vs. the Saints after the bye. If Trubisky isn’t performing, the bye gives the Steelers a natural break to make a starting quarterback change. But if Trubisky is playing well, there’s no point in making a change at that juncture.
The second — and more likely — date is Week 18. Even in years in which the Steelers weren’t supposed to be part of the playoff conversation, they’ve still had a fighting chance late in the season. This season might not be any different, and as long as Trubisky isn’t losing the team games, it makes sense to stick with him. But if Week 18 turns into a formality game with nothing on the line but bragging rights, then the Steelers might give Pickett a taste of an AFC North rivalry game.
When you look at the above questions, how do you answer them?
- What is the chance Pickett starts Week 1?
- Will Pickett sit the entire 2022 season?
- What is your prediction for Pickett to get his first start?
Put on your prognosticator hats, and let us know what you think about these questions in the comment section below. And be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for all the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the offseason before reporting for training camp on July 26th at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.