The Steelers Have Nothing to Lose: It’s Time to Start Kenny Pickett

After three games, the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to have struggles on offense, and something needs to change to make this team watchable again.

 This offseason, the team attempted to address the offense by bringing in veteran free agents in an effort to improve the much-maligned offensive line. As for the quarterback position, they brought in veteran signal caller Mitchell Trubisky, and drafted University of Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett to compete with Mason Rudolph to be the immediate successor to long-time starter Ben Roethlisberger. After OTAs, training camp, and preseason the team opted to go with Trubisky over the quarterback that’s been in the system for a number of years, and the one that they just spent a first round pick on. After three games of uninspiring quarterback play, it’s time for the Steelers to make the switch and bring in the rook.

Two of the biggest issues with the Steelers passing offense last year were the lack of throws to the middle of the field, and the abundance of throws behind the line of scrimmage. There was a thought that maybe Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada was just calling quick routes to protect the older Ben Roethlisberger from getting injured behind a truly horrible offensive line, but this year with a younger, more mobile quarterback; as well as a much improved o-line, these issues remain the same. Now, it may be easy to just heap 100% of the blame on coaching, but after watching three games of Trubisky it is clear that you can throw a lot of blame for the ineptitude of the offense on his shoulders as well. 

Mitchell Trubisky has been playing quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers like a guy that is looking to not lose his job, rather than a guy that wants to win football games. The Steelers have given up five sacks this year, and none of them are at the fault of the offensive line. Trubisky holds onto the ball, plain and simple. He is too scared to make a mistake. The quarterback taking longer to throw is actually a reason why the routes behind the line of scrimmage worked better last year with Ben Roethlisberger getting the ball out quickly, giving the receivers some time to make a move before defenders close in. This year, defenders can close in on the pass catchers and drag them down immediately, or even have time to break up the pass. Another problem that has been made evident with Trubisky, is his utter refusal to throw to the middle of the field. An example of that can be seen here. Yes, this is the play where George Pickens made his incredible highlight reel catch. While the play was amazing, this clip from the All-22 film showed Chase Claypool in the middle of the field, wide open. There is a high likelihood that if Mitch hits Claypool in stride on that play it goes for a long touchdown. Speaking of Pickens, let’s use a route he runs on a play to highlight yet another issue with Trubisky. As you can see on this play, George Pickens is wide open, yet Trubisky quickly throws to a different receiver. He does not go through his reads and predetermines where he is going to throw the ball. That is not going to cut it all season.

Enter the rookie, Kenny Pickett. There were valid question marks surrounding the offense, mainly the potential of the offensive line to get him killed, that made it make sense to keep Pickett on the bench as a rookie. Now that it’s clear that pass protection is not nearly as big of an issue as was once feared, the offense needs a spark that only a change in quarterback can supply; and there’s no time like the present. It was once thought that the best way to introduce a rookie signal caller to the NFL was to have him ride the pine his whole rookie season and learn, but that is no longer the case. College offenses have never prepared quarterbacks to enter the NFL more. While I understand the concerns with possibly stunting his development by playing him too early, Pickett needs to gain experience and the team needs to see him in live action to evaluate his performance. Besides, lets not pretend that the Pittsburgh Steelers have bad coaching and/or a bad supporting cast that can hold Pickett back.

As a matter of fact, that first quarterbacks taken in the previous two drafts haven’t let any of those obstacles hold them back. 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow led the Bengals to the Super Bowl in his second year despite some suspect coaching from Zac Taylor, who doesn’t hold a candle to Mike Tomlin. 2021 first overall pick Trevor Lawrence had every excuse in the book. His first coach in the NFL was arguably the worst coach of all-time, and his supporting cast was downright awful. Fast forward a year and he has led the Jaguars to an early 2-1 record and back to back blowout wins over their division rival Colts and the Los Angeles Chargers, who many had called a playoff team before the season began. If a quarterback has “it”, there is no such thing as playing him too soon.

The Steelers offense is struggling with Mitch Trubisky under center. They need to figure out what they have with the guy they spent the 20th overall pick on, and they won’t do that with him sitting on the bench.

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