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Rich Eisen Explains Steelers ‘Insane’ Choice Stick with Kenny Pickett



Kenny Pickett Steelers

Through 25 career games (24 starts), Kenny Pickett has not shown traits of becoming the next big thing at quarterback in the NFL. For sure, it’s not easy replacing the shoes of a future Hall of Famer, but you knew that Ben Roethlisberger had that “it factor” in his rookie year in 2004.

Staunch Kenny Pickett supporters would argue that he was massively held back by former offensive coordinator Matt Canada, and needs a chance to redeem himself under new OC Arthur Smith. That appears the direction the Steelers are going to go, too, judging by offseason statements by head coach Mike Tomlin, president Art Rooney II and general manager Omar Khan.

On the flip side, however, running it back with Kenny Pickett leaves many fans and analysts unsettled, as the AFC is loaded with top-flight quarterbacks in Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, C.J. Stroud, Justin Herbert, Aaron Rodgers etc. How can a Pickett-led offense compete with that? Let alone compete in the AFC North with Jackson, Burrow and Deshaun Watson?

On Monday’s episode of the Overreaction Monday Podcast, producer Chris Brockman asked Rich Eisen if the Steelers are insane for potentially running it back with Pickett or Rudolph at quarterback.

“Insane is a tough word,” Eisen said. “But I understand why fans are going to be like, ‘We need our own Mahomes.’ And (Pickett) ain’t it. But what if he’s the Purdy?”

Purdy has thrown 44 touchdowns compared to Pickett’s 13 in two seasons. He had a ton of talent around him and Shanahan was his play-caller, however. That’s a drastic difference. Can Arthur Smith mold and develop Pickett like Shanahan has done for Purdy? Time will tell, but that’s what the Steelers are hoping for.

Eisen ultimately pulled back and said it would be an overreaction to call the Steelers insane if they have Pickett as their starter again. He thinks it would bring tension in the quarterback room to trade for Fields. The Steelers would admit that they missed on the Pickett pick by doing so.

“Trading a night two pick for Justin Fields, who will have to be hired and make a fifth-year option decision within two months of hiring him. And then you have Pickett on his first contract, too. And then what are we going to do here? You’ve got Pickett sitting here. What, are you going to have Fields looking over his shoulder because the favorite son from two years ago is on a rookie contract, too?” Eisen said.

The old cliche of it being a quarterback-driven league is very true, but that doesn’t mean the Steelers can’t compete for a Super Bowl. It’s rare, but it has been done over the last 15 years. The most notable case is when Nick Foles led the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl title in 2017. Foles was a backup and didn’t start until a late-season injury to Carson Wentz. Joe Flacco also won a Super Bowl title with the Baltimore Ravens in 2012. Flacco was a mid-tier quarterback at the time and the 2012 Super Bowl run was really the only time he was “elite.”

Shanahan’s offensive system is probably an outlier, but San Francisco appeared in the Super Bowl with Jimmy Garoppolo in 2019 but lost to Kansas City. The 49ers got back to the Super Bowl with Purdy this past year and lost to the Chiefs again.

A non-franchise quarterback has appeared in the Super Bowl just four times over the last 15 years. And I guess Flacco could be debatable. Nevertheless, the odds are not very good for the Steelers to appear in a Super Bowl or win it with Pickett.