Pittsburgh Steelers: Tomlin going with rookie Kenny Pickett as QB1 at Buffalo
Here’s how bad things are in Steeltown: Kenny Pickett, in relief of Mitch Trubisky, threw three INTs in Pittsburgh’s 24-20 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday, and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is sticking with him to start this week at Buffalo.
“Kenny will start this week,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “We made the change. Obviously, Mitch’s performance was a component of the decision, but not the only component of the decision. I just want to be really clear there. Oftentimes, the quarterback position gets too much credit, too much blame. We haven’t moved the ball fluidly enough to our liking. We hadn’t put enough points on the board. The quarterback is a component of that, but not the only component.”
Pickett, a first-round pick out of Pitt, did direct two second-half scoring drives, both ending on Pickett TD runs, and was 10-of-13 passing for 120 yards, and to be fair, one of the picks was on the final-play Hail Mary.
One thing that was noticeable in his limited action was his ability to attack downfield relative to Trubisky. Pickett was 5-of-7 for 98 yards on passes that traveled 10+ yards in two quarters under center on Sunday; Trubisky, in 10 quarters as QB1, has completed 21-of-48 for 379 yards on passes of 10+ yards.
Tomlin said he thought Pickett “provided a spark” to the offense.
“I thought we moved it more fluidly. I thought we put some points on the board,” Tomlin said. “Obviously, it wasn’t a perfect half. We turned the ball over some. You can’t do that. He’s a young guy. He’s going to grow throughout this process. But make no mistake about it, we’re not grading him on a curve. He’s not grading himself on a curve. There’s an expectation of quality play and playing to win.”
Tomlin feels at ease with the transition to Pickett given how he’s handled things to this point.
Pickett started the team’s offseason program third on the depth chart behind Trubisky and long-term backup Mason Rudolph, but moved past Rudolph in the preseason. This is the next step in the 24-year-old rookie’s career path.
“Kenny has shown us maturity at every point throughout this process,” Tomlin said. “He’s older than most rookies. That was obviously discussed leading up to the draft process. There are things that we valued about him during the draft process, fluid and quick decision making, pro-like anticipation have proven to be true. That’s why we took him when we were given the opportunity to do so.”