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Saunders: Trubisky to Start, But Pressure is on Pickett, Rudolph in Preseason

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Steelers Kenny Pickett Mason Rudolph

UNITY TWP., Pa. — Mitch Trubisky will be the starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday, but it will be backups Mason Rudolph and Kenny Pickett with the most to prove.

Trubisky has shown flashes of the potential that made him the No. 2 overall draft pick throughout training camp, but it hasn’t been his play this summer but his resume that has kept him at the top of the Steelers’ depth chart so far.

“We based our start on resume,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said to CBS Sports on Tuesday. “Mitch has won in this league. The statistics bear that out. He has more experience than the others. So we just thought it was appropriate to start there.”

Trubisky will still need to earn his role, but his one quarter of expected action on Saturday will not come with a pressure to perform. He’s in the starting role because of his resume.

At some point during the preparation for a season, present-day play will start to mean something in comparison to that resume. But two weeks of Steelers on Steelers training camp has not been that time.

If Mason Rudolph and Kenny Pickett are going to make the kind of mark necessary in order to upset the predetermined order at quarterback, it’s going to have to come against a true opponent.

For Rudolph, that means showing that his consistent play throughout training camp can be repeated against a live defense. He has been a much more consistent practice player than he has shown during his up-and-down game action in his NFL career.

For Pickett, it’s about showing that he’s learned lessons from his age and college experience and reps the Steelers defense about what he can and can’t do in the NFL, and won’t need to go through the kind of painful transition that the Steelers simply won’t tolerate.

Tomlin said that the team will learn “a lot” about how ready Pickett really is when he faces a live NFL defense for the first time.

“This guy hasn’t been in a live pocket yet,” Tomlin said. “None of the quarterbacks have, and that component of it is significant in terms of their play, their ability to operate and make decisions in a timely manner, their ability to absorb the punishment that comes with the game and the position. There’s so much involved in live quarterback play. Their ability to protect the football. And so it’s a big opportunity for him and others.”

The Steelers have been very deliberate about making changes to the quarterback depth chart. If those changes are going to come, it will require a strong performance from Rudolph, Pickett or both against Seattle on Saturday. 

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