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Tomlin: Kenny Pickett is QB1; Will Face Competition for Job



Pittsburgh Steelers QB Kenny Pickett
Pittsburgh Steelers QB Kenny Pickett against the Buffalo Bills, Jan. 15, 2024 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers have a decision to make on second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett this offseason. To this point, Pickett’s coaches and the system around him have not helped him, but their statement on him would be a massive story. Mike Tomlin said that Pickett will remain the team’s starting quarterback, but they will have some competition to challenge him.

“He will (get QB1 job back), but ultimately, there will be competition,” Tomlin said. “There’s always competition in this thing. We don’t anoint anyone. I’m appreciative of his efforts and where he is and excited to keep working with him, but certainly he will be challenged from a competition perspective moving forward. Competiion brings out the best in us.”

Pickett was benched after suffering an ankle injury, forcing him to get tightrope surgery. By the end of it, the team rode the hot hand of Mason Rudolph to the finish line. More than that, they have just one game of seeing Pickett without former offensive coordinator Matt Canada, and his one game without Canada was one of his best games in the NFL.

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Kenny Pickett

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett on the sideline, out with an ankle injury during his team’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 23, 2023. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

2024 is shaping up as the biggest year of Pickett’s career. Tomlin did not run from that fact, and in his exit meeting with Pickett, Tomlin emphasized that Pickett must show them something this year. In his own words, Tomlin said it was a huge year for Pickett and his growth.

“We met this morning and acknowledged that,” Tomlin said when asked if Pickett must show growth. “It is a huge year for him. But I’m also excited about just watching him wear that component of it because I know how he’s wired and built. And I’m excited to watch him attack it.”

There is little question that Pickett will have to both earn the job and moreover, have competition. The team hopes that competition comes in the form of Rudolph. But when asked if the quarterback for 2024 was on the roster currently, Tomlin did give an emphatic ‘yes’, and that gives a vote of confidence in Pickett’s corner.

Tomlin gave a boost to Rudolph, too, though. When a guy plays like that, it is hard to deny what he has done, and so they would like to have him back in the fold.

“I don’t think any of us can deny what we’ve seen over the last month or so,” Tomlin said. “I cannot underscore how impressive it is to be ready. Forget performance man, to be ready to deliver. And he was, and that preparedness showed. So certainly we are less speculative about his capabilities because there’s evidence of it.”

The Steelers have moves to make, but their offensive coordinator hire will determine just how well they can concoct all of these ideas and meld them together at quarterback. Someone who has quarterback guru experience, or at least experience dealing with young quarterbacks, is a big key to all of this.

There are plenty of candidates out there who fit the bill for Tomlin and his staff. Now that they have given some confidence behind Pickett, it is about finding someone to maximize the scheme around him to put him in the best spot to succeed.