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Mike Tomlin Refuses to Commit to Starting QB if Kenny Pickett Can’t Play vs. Panthers



Steelers Mike Tomlin Mason Rudolph

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers are not sure who their starter will be just yet against the Panthers, as head coach Mike Tomlin refused to commit to a starting quarterback. With Pickett’s status up in the air, it remains to be seen if he will play this week. But if he is cleared, Tomlin says that Pickett will end up as the starter.

So, what happens if he does not play? It will be Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph dueling it out in practice. Rudolph has not received significant team snaps in practice since training camp, but it seems that Tomlin is open to the idea of Rudolph playing. Meanwhile, Trubisky’s three-interception performance has seemed to come with some serious consequences.

“If he’s unable to work, obviously, we’ll divvy those reps up between Mitch and Mason,” Tomlin said. “We’ll play both guys if he’s unable to work in a practice setting to make a determination of what’s best as we lean into the latter part of the week.”

Rudolph said on Monday if he’s asked to play, that he is ‘ready to rock‘ and ramp up again if asked. Trubisky, meanwhile, would simply be continuing his routine. However, when Mike Tomlin was asked to clarify who could start if Pickett did not play, he remained mum on who could play against Carolina. Largely, it will be taken day-by-day by their quality of practice.

“I’m gonna work both guys this week if given the opportunity with Kenny potentially limited this week,” Tomlin said. “But really, I’m taking it day-by-day from a quarterback decision-making standpoint. His availability from day-to-day is such a key component of it. I’m not even looking toward the end of the week. I’m really kinda looking at what tomorrow and playing it by ear from that perspective.”

Trubisky did throw the three interceptions, but the Steelers ended up moving the ball well against an extremely good Baltimore team. So, were there any positives that Tomlin took away from Trubisky’s performance? Sure there were, but above all else, the turnovers overshadow it all.

“We moved the ball fluidly continually,” Tomlin said. “That’s what you better have when you have a veteran backup like him. The reps that he misses during the course of the week are made up by his cumulative experience if you will. We felt that. We didn’t feel any reduction in what we thought we’d do.”

Rudolph has stayed engaged throughout the season as the backup. Over time, he has gained up his reps through work on the side. But his veteran instincts and level of experience bring comfort for Tomlin. He is viewed as a guy who can easily be heated up if need be.

“Particularly in Mason’s case, having been exposed to us and having been here, and the receivers that he would potentially work with, when you talk about a guy ascending at that position, you’re calling on past experience,” Tomlin said.

It will be a situation to watch throughout the week. If Pickett can play, he will start. But if he can not, it is anyone’s best guess as to who the Steelers put under center when they travel to Charlotte.