When will Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers turn to Kenny Pickett?

When the Pittsburgh Steelers used a first-round pick to select Pitt QB Kenny Pickett in this year’s NFL Draft, it wasn’t to have him be a backup in perpetuity. Pickett eventually having a crack at being the team’s starting quarterback, and successor to Ben Roethlisberger, isn’t up for debate.

Instead, the timeframe is: when will Kenny takeover the reins for current starter Mitchell Trubisky?

That much is unknown, as Steelers head coach is either in denial over Trubisky’s current shortcomings, or he’s giving everyone “coach speak” as to not put any further pressure on Pickett.

However, the clock is ticking on Trubisky’s time as the team’s signal caller. Here are a few scenarios of when we might expect to see Pickett out on the field.

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Kenny and the Jets

I playfully toyed with this spin on Elton John’s classic “Bennie and the Jets” song, as the time could be right – right now – for Trubisky to exit stage left.

But why this Week 4 Jets game? There are a few reasons.

First, it seems as though Trubisky played in three-game spurts in his last starting stint with the Bears. Breaking down those nine games, you can see how inconsistent he was with pressure and protecting the football.

Through three games with the Steelers, Trubisky’s stats are as follows:

62/103 60.2% 569 YDS 2 TD 1 INT 5 SCK 0 FMB

His accuracy aside, its the worst yards-per-attempt of the four groups shown, as well as the fewest touchdown passes despite playing an additional overtime period and throwing more attempts than two of the Bears’ composites above.

This should be more than enough to sway the Steelers staff into considering a change. Typically, the team would have a week (or less) to mull over the idea, but with their last game having been played on Thursday night, they got a few extra days to discuss this decision.

The “mini bye” would be a perfect time to cue up Sir Elton on the playlist and give Kenny an opportunity against a subpar New York Jets team, in front of the home crowd in Pittsburgh.

Otherwise, you start to get into some dodgy territory.

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Relief Duty

After they play the New York Jets at home, three of the Steelers next four games are all on the road… and all four of the games resemble a juggernaut for a rookie to take on:

  • @ Buffalo Bills
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • @ Miami Dolphins
  • @ Philadelphia Eagles

Will Mike Tomlin play it safe and sit Pickett against the Jets as to not have him go through this onslaught of teams? What if the games become a blowout? Could we see Pickett play in relief?

Those are plausible scenarios as the Steelers have a Week 9 bye following the above second quarter of their 2022 schedule.

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The Bye Week

This is where most folks have Pickett penciled in to takeover for Trubisky. Following the above games, the Steelers will enter a bye week before hosting a two-game stand at Acrisure Stadium against the New Orleans Saints and Cincinnati Bengals.

Right now, both of those games look like winnable ones, should the quarterback play improve Pittsburgh’s offensive output.

After that, the Steelers take two more road trips to Indianapolis and Atlanta, making this four-game stretch one that might be less demoralizing for a rookie QB.

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The End

Should the Steelers crawl into December with only a handful of wins, it’s possible that Mike Tomlin pulls the trigger anywhere from the Colts or Falcons games mentioned above, or anytime before and after the first of two Baltimore Ravens games during the final stretch to finish the season.

The team will have “nothing to lose” with a sub .500 record, putting less pressure on Pickett while also giving him some valuable experience – and the team some valuable time to evaluate him.

The Steelers schedule finishes as follows:

  • Baltimore Ravens
  • @ Carolina Panthers
  • Las Vegas Raiders
  • @ Baltimore Ravens
  • Cleveland Browns

Also keep in mind, this is the entertainment business. The Steelers second game against the Bengals is a Sunday Night Football slate before Thanksgiving weekend, their trip for Monday Night Football against the Colts is right after the turkey is served for leftovers, and the Raiders game is played on Christmas Eve as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception.

Even the next-to-last game is a 1pm kickoff on New Year’s Day.

Pickett starting in any of these games is sure to drive some nice talking points for the league to beef up interest in the closing portion of Pittsburgh’s 2022 schedule.

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Next Year?!

Mike Tomlin has quipped, more than once, that he prefers to stick with a veteran. As crazy as it sounds, he may not start Kenny Pickett at all this season.

The Steelers kept Mason Rudolph around, and if Tomlin were to make a switch at the quarterback position, there’s always a chance he does the unthinkable by keeping Kenny as the backup and inserting the other veteran on his depth chart into the starting role.

It seems like a stretch of the imagination at this point, but if Tomlin isn’t giving us one-liners to whet our appetite, and really is sticking to a format where Pickett sits all of his first season in the NFL, then its either Trubisky for the long haul or a return to Rudolph getting one last swan song as a starter with the Steelers.

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