For the first time in what feels like ages, a QB battle will be going down at the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp this offseason. Head coach Mike Tomlin will have to choose between the veteran, Mitch Trubisky; the rookie kid, Kenny Pickett; or the four-year backup QB, Mason Rudolph ––whom, if we’re being honest, won’t even play a part in this competition.
For some, like popular sports personality, Rich Eisen, it won’t even be much of a battle at all between Trubisky and Pickett. “He won’t even start Week 1,” Eisen said of Trubisky during a recent episode of the Rich Eisen Show.
Question is, what makes some like Eisen, so sure that the Steelers will start Kenny Pickett over Trubisky and Rudolph? Injuries aside, there is a very good reason why the rookie out of the University of Pittsburgh could take over the starting gig in pre-season.
BMR’s Betting Pulse
• Mitch Trubisky brings plenty of experience with him to Pittsburgh after starting 50 of the 57 games he has played thus far in his five-year career but has proven to be rather inconsistent.
• Kenny Pickett spent the last couple of years playing in a pro-runned offense thanks to ex-Pitt offensive coordinator Mark Whipple.
• Mason Rudolph won’t even play a part in this competition unless a significant injury occurs.
First, let’s begin with Mitch Trubisky. After Big Ben announced his retirement from the NFL and knowing they couldn’t count on Rudolph, the Steelers set out on their QB journey. It all started with free agency and on the very first day of the open market, the Steelers signed Trubisky to a two-year deal and fans thought the Steelers had found their answer, at least for now.
Trubisky brings plenty of experience with him to Pittsburgh after starting 50 of the 57 games he has played thus far in his five-year career. He joined the league as the second-overall pick of the Chicago Bears in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Trubisky made quite the impact during his rookie year and set a pair of Bears’ franchise records, including 196 completions and 2,193 passing yards. The following year, Trubisky earned his lone Pro Bowl nod and an NFC North championship after passing for:
- 3,223 yards
- 24 touchdowns
- 12 interceptions
How Many Games Did Trubisky Start for the Bears?
Mitch Trubisky started 50 of 51 games in four seasons with the Chicago Bears before his inconsistent play got him the boot. In those four years, Trubisky completed 1,010 of 1,577 passes for:
- 10,609 yards
- 64 touchdowns
- 37 interceptions
- 87.2 percent passer rating
He also contributed on the ground with 190 rush attempts for 1,057 yards and eight scores.
Last season, Trubisky spent his time in Buffalo with the Bills as a backup to Josh Allen where he played in just six games with eight pass attempts. Now he has a chance to get back on the saddle and start for the Steelers in 2022, but things won’t come easy to him as he faces a rookie with plenty of NFL readiness already in him.
Just when fans thought the Steelers had their 2022 QB1 in Trubisky, the team went and drafted Pickett at No. 20 overall in this year’s NFL draft. “He and his [8 3/4] inch hands…he’s going to be the Week 1 starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Eisen said confidently of Pickett.
The Heisman Trophy finalist enters the league after a season where he won an ACC Championship win over Wake Forest. In his last season with the Panthers, Pickett threw:
- 314 completions
- 4,066 yards
- 40 touchdowns
For most rookie QBs, the college to NFL jump is difficult and a division like the AFC North has its obstacles with the likes of Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson.
But after already playing in a pro-runned offense thanks to ex-Pitt offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, Pickett has what it takes to be a Day 1 starter.
Easier Transition Than With Ben Roethlisberger
“It’s almost like he spent his rookie NFL season at the college level and really mastered it,” former Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert told ESPN. “Coach [Pat] Narduzzi and coach [Mark] Whipple provided him an opportunity to take that step in a pro schematic.”
The 24-year-old rookie spent the last three years learning under Whipple, who previously worked with Big Ben at the Steelers and with the Cleveland Browns, which should make his transition a little easier as Whipple used a handful of pro-style concepts in his system.
“I don’t know if it’s the easiest transition,” Whipple said via ESPN, “but it’s pretty much easier than maybe Ben [Roethlisberger] had it or other rookies that I had at Cleveland.”
Pickett is still far from being the perfect QB1 but he’s been with the team for just a few weeks and is already the face of the franchise. And let’s face it, Trubisky and Rudolph already had their time to shine and they just didn’t cut it. It’s Pickett’s time now.