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Will Kenny Pickett Beat Out Mitch Trubisky And Become The Steelers’ Week One Starter?

The former Pittsburgh Panther shined in his first preseason opportunity, and seems to already have a connection with another rookie, but is it enough to catapult him into the starting role?

The Heir Apparent?

As the first quarterback drafted in 2022 and someone who has already made a name for himself in the city of Pittsburgh, Kenny Pickett has a chance to be the heir apparent to future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger.

After Big Ben retired at the end of last season, Steelers general manager Omar Khan and head coach Mike Tomlin had a decision to make. They could grab a quarterback in free agency that would essentially bridge the gap until they found a new franchise-type guy or draft a QB with their first-round selection and move from there. Well, they did both. Pittsburgh went out and signed former top-five pick Mitchell Trubisky to a two-year, $14.285 million contract in early April. Then, later that month, they selected Pitt QB Kenny Pickett in the draft, 20th overall.

What They’re Saying…

Second-year running back Najee Harris has said: “he’s going to be good, for sure.” How much pressure is on the rookie signal caller? Should he be regarded as the next Ben Roethlisberger or is that type of expectation ridiculous for someone who is just getting his feet wet in the NFL? Well, of course, it is, he’s just a rookie. However, recently Colin Cowherd explained on his podcast that “If he can’t get it done now, he’s the wrong guy.”

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Granted, Cowherd is notorious for picking a quarterback he likes and going with him through thick and thin like he did with Sam Darnold in 2018, and potentially he just doesn’t see all of the hype around Pickett, which is fine. Trubisky is a fine player, but not someone who can carry a team into the postseason.

What Kenny Does Well

Pickett on the other hand is a guy who can make throws consistently, throw in the run, and rarely misses an open target. With perhaps not the strongest arm, he struggles to make throws deep down the field, however, thrives in short and mid-route combinations, with an immense talent for throwing the football with accuracy and precision. My favorite trait about the young Pickett is his ability to stand strong in the pocket and not let one missed read faze him. He stays calm throughout the game which allows him to deliver in big spots and make plays for his team.

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The emergence of Harris will be key, as having a Pro Bowl caliber back to pair with a solid receiving core that includes Chase Claypool, rookie George Pickens and tight end Pat Freiermuth could turn into something special for the black and yellow. In fact, Pickens has already shown that he could be one of the most ascendant rookie receivers the NFL has to offer in 2022-2023. Making three grabs for 43 yards and a score, the former Georgia Bulldog was in sync with Pickett, and many have already endorsed Pickett to Pickens as the next elite QB/WR combination, though it’s undoubtedly way too early for that type of assessment.

His College Days…

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Kenny Pickett’s best season in college was his last. He completed 67.2% of his passes for over 4,000 yards, with a 42 to 7 touchdown to interception ratio. (Sports Reference) After years at Pitt being good, not great, he finally established himself as a top QB prospect in his senior year and was drafted in the first round because of it. He was known for his elite pocket presence and ability to make throws on the run with tremendous accuracy. As he grows in Pittsburgh under coach Tomlin, he could very well mold into a better thrower of the deep ball, which is a trait he will need to develop as he progresses.

The Steelers Starter: To Be? Or Not To Be?

As for the question brought up in this article, my early answer is no. I do not believe Kenny Pickett will be the Steelers’ week one starter, and it’s simply due to a lack of confidence from the coaching staff and the desire from the front office that he instead learn from Trubisky a bit and sit behind him, at least until he’s proven to be ready to take NFL snaps.

I believe Pittsburgh going the Brett Favre/ Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith/ Patrick Mahomes route could certainly work, however, it solely depends on the play of Trubisky, and whether Pickett shines in practice and Tomlin decides he’s ready before the season ends. I absolutely believe Pickett will be the starter in the near future and see him fitting in very well with the system in place in Pittsburgh.


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