With the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks just three days away, Mitch Trubisky is clearly the team’s No. 1 quarterback, there’s a difference between being atop the depth chart entering the preseason and remaining there for the start of the regular season.
There’s also the question of how the reps should be divided, regardless of depth chart status. In the past, starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn’t participate until the end of the preseason, with reps going to backups like Mason Rudolph instead. Rudolph probably doesn’t need those reps anymore, but rookie Kenny Pickett certainly does.
So who should start the Steelers preseason opener on Saturday?
CALE BERGER, KENNY PICKETT
While Trubisky has taken the lion’s share of first team reps throughout training camp, it does not feel as though his opportunity to start Saturday night has been earned. Instead of simply handing the role to Trubisky, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin should present that starting opportunity to the quarterback who not only has bigger bearing on the team’s future, but has also been the better player throughout camp: Kenny Pickett.
Yes, Trubisky certainly has the experience advantage over the rookie Pickett, but background and age should not be used as blanket justification for opportunities over a competitor. What should determine the depth chart most is performance in the present, an area where Pickett is excelling compared to his more experienced counterpart.
Beginning camp behind a makeshift offensive line comprised of players that may never see an NFL training camp again, Pickett understandably struggled. In the weeks and practices since, Pickett has shown more poise and playmaking ability with each passing day.
Whether it’s utilizing his athleticism to extend plays or finding targets with precision passes for touchdowns, Pickett has shown the development franchise’s want out of their first round quarterbacks.
Meanwhile, Trubisky has exclusively repped with the first team, and failed to seize the starting job the way many had hoped.
He has looked inconsistent, inaccurate and put on one of the most disheartening Seven Shots displays we have ever seen from an anointed Steelers starter this far into training camp.
Wednesday’s session was more of the same, as Trubisky went an uninspiring 0-4 in the goal line drill and had countless misfires in the other team portions of practice.
At some point the play on the field in game-like scenarios has to play a factor. Trubisky has struggled in those instances, while Pickett continues to improve. No one wants to rush Pickett. But if the Steelers are dead set on winning in 2022, the time to insert him into the starting lineup is now.
Pickett is the future of the franchise in Pittsburgh. After he was selected, Trubisky’s outlook shifted from career rejuvenation to mere placeholder until Pickett comes of age.
For better or worse, that time has arrived sooner than many expected. While Pickett’s ascension through camp has earned him a promotion entering Saturday’s preseason opener, Trubisky’s play has conversely earned him a demotion from the first team offense.
ALAN SAUNDERS, MITCH TRUBISKY
I don’t think anything has been decided yet, but if I was handicapping the Steelers quarterback battle, I would make Trubisky the heavy favorite. There’s a long way to go, including the entire preseason, but Trubisky hasn’t been bad enough or the other competitors good enough, to upset the order of operations so far.
If Trubisky is going to be the starting quarterback, then he needs game reps with the first-team offense. The Steelers have an extremely difficult start to their 2022 schedule and they can’t afford to have lengthy growing pains if they’re going to make noise in the AFC North.
Veterans and important starters are not going to get a ton of reps in preseason, especially in the first game. The reps that are taken will be extremely important toward bringing that first-team offense together.
For better or worse, Pickett probably isn’t going to need those reps, because he isn’t going to be the starer in Week 1. What he needs is volume of NFL competition. Throughout training camp, there have been many, many sequences where you can see Pickett making mistakes based on things that he could do against ACC defenses that he can’t do against NFL defenses. Those mistakes will be exacerbated when the defenses are actually allowed to hit him.
Pickett needs a lot of reps against the Seahawks and the rest of the Steelers preseason opponents, but he doesn’t need to start. Let take some reps and see if he earns it.
YOU PICK THE WINNER
Who made the better argument?
- Alan Saunders, Mitch Trubisky (59%, 22 Votes)
- Cale Berger, Kenny Pickett (41%, 15 Votes)
Total Voters: 37