PITTSBURGH, Pa. — At his annual end-of-season press conference, Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II reinforced many of the statements that head coach Mike Tomlin made about Kenny Pickett’s future as the starting quarterback of the team but expressed his belief in the second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett, too.
“We need to do everything we can to get quality play out of our quarterback position going forward,” Rooney said. “We still feel good about Kenny Pickett and his future but he knows he needs to work hard to take the next step and we talked about that.”
The team intends to have Pickett return as the starter in 2024, but Rooney and Tomlin have noted that next season is almost a do-or-die year for Pickett. While that sounds intimidating, Rooney believes Pickett can ascend to the level needed and cited that he only got better with time in his tenure at the University of Pittsburgh.
“One of the things, I think, that we liked about Kenny in terms of his career at Pitt was how hard he worked and that he took a step every year,” Rooney said. “We are looking for that to happen here.”
Entering his second season, Pickett and the Steelers offense were looked at as a group that could take off in 2023, but that never really happened. After the firing of the offensive coordinator, Pickett played in one game without Matt Canada as the play-caller, and that turned out to be one of his best games since he entered the league.
The next week, Pickett injured his ankle which resulted in him being sidelined for the rest of the season. While he could have returned to the lineup in the latter part of the season, the team opted to stick with the hot-handed Mason Rudolph for the rest of the season and the team’s lone playoff game.
With the Steelers having stated that they intend to have Pickett battle in camp with another quarterback, whether that is Rudolph or a different player, Pickett’s third NFL season will determine his future in Pittsburgh. After next season, the team will have to decide whether or not to exercise Pickett’s fifth-year option which will determine if he becomes a free agent following the 2025 season or the 2026 season.