Kenny Pickett, the Steelers quarterback of the future, is scheduled to get his first crack at another NFL team when he makes his professional debut in the preseason opener vs. the Seahawks at Acrisure Stadium on Saturday night.
There have been some growing pains for Pickett during the first two-plus weeks of Steelers training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., but that shouldn’t be a surprise.
It’s actually been mostly painful—or underwhelming, anyway—for the top three quarterbacks in camp, including Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph and the rookie, himself.
Trubisky has struggled all summer long, while Rudolph, who has actually impressed most reporters who have been covering the Steelers in Latrobe, just isn’t going to convince anyone of anything until he does it in a game. But while Rudolph has apparently looked the most consistent of the top three quarterbacks, he still hasn’t provided a “wow” moment—that’s four-plus years and counting without one of those in a game or at training camp.
As for Trubisky, has he ever truly provided a “wow” moment for someone to sink their teeth into? Did he ever do that during his four seasons with the Bears? I know he didn’t provide such a moment with the Bills last season because he was Josh Allen’s backup and barely played.
We keep hearing about Trubisky’s athleticism, but we don’t hear about him ever using it to such an extent that you go, “Ah, that’s why he was the number two pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.”
You expect a young quarterback to struggle, regardless of where he’s drafted, but you also expect to see a glimpse or two of what could possibly make him special when and if he puts it all together.
We may see that on Saturday night when Pickett makes his debut against Seattle. What is that special something that may be ready to shine through before Pickett is even able to understand the playbook or diagnose an NFL defense? His ability to move outside of the pocket and complete passes downfield.
During a radio appearance on 93.7 The Fan a few weeks back, Brian Baldinger, a former NFL player and a current NFL analyst, compared Pickett’s ability to throw on the move to that of Patrick Mahomes. That’s right. Baldinger quickly cautioned the amazed co-hosts on The Fan that he wasn’t putting Pickett quite on the same level, only that he reminded him of Mahomes in that area.
We’ve heard similar things from Steelers reporters all summer regarding Pickett and his mobility. In fact, while making an appearance on Mark Madden’s radio show on Wednesday, Gerry Dulac, a long-time Steelers insider, referenced Pickett’s ability to make plays with his arm while on the move.
Perhaps this is something that can ultimately separate Pickett from his competitors. Sure, it doesn't seem like a real competition when it comes to who the Steelers want to be their starter in Week 1—it’s still Trubisky’s job to lose at this point—but wouldn’t it be something if the rookie first-round pick brought everyone at Acrisure Stadium to their feet with a dazzling play or two on Saturday night?
Yes, Pickett is likely going to see playing time with and against third-teamers, but what if he looks like the best player on the field? What if he looks like the best athlete? What if he looks like a man among boys?
That’s all it could take to make Pickett’s coaches—primarily, Mike Tomlin—stand up and take notice.
It might take a few hours into to Saturday’s game for Pickett to finally make an appearance, but when he does, look for him to move folks with his arm and legs.