PITTSBURGH — The Steelers are holding a competition at quarterback this offseason, as the team looks to replace retired superstar Ben Roethlisberger, and the contenders are clear: incumbent backup Mason Rudolph, free agent acquisition Mitch Trubisky and first-round rookie Kenny Pickett. What isn’t clear is how much what happens in May while the Steelers gather for OTAs matters toward that competition.
For the second day in a row on Wednesday, Trubisky was the first quarterback in line for drills and reps and at the very least appears to be the first choice out of the gate by the coaching staff to lead the out the offseason process.
How much does that matter?
Mason Rudolph, second in the pecking order, seemed non-plussed by the development on Tuesday.
“I think it’s going to change a lot,” he said. “Today, we were pretty evenly split. The repetitions are not up to me. Whatever Coach Sullivan and Canada and Mike Tomlin divvy out to me, I’m going to make the most of and move on to the next day.”
Pickett, the third man through the order, does not look out of place in passing drills. There’s only so much to be learned from football in shorts, and it’s hard to say whether the rookie has met or exceeded expectations so far, as much of the work of absorbing the offense is mental, rather than physical.
“We’re just working right now, teaching and learning,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “Nobody is going to win a job or lose a job out here in shorts in May.”
That’s true. But early on, it seems to be Trubisky’s job to lose.
FIRED UP FLO’
The lack of overall importance of every rep taken in May is a fact, but don’t expect new Steelers senior defensive assistant Brian Flores to let any of his group take any off, either.
Flores, working with the team’s inside linebackers on Wednesday, was harping on the pace and intensity of his charges during non-contact drills, well before the team period of simulated football.
It’s easy to see what made Flores a head coach, as his voice and demeanor draws attention and respect on the practice field. It’s been interesting to watch even veterans like Myles Jack listen attentively every time Flores speaks.
The attendance among veterans early on has been strong, especially on defense (the offense barely has any, but that’s another story). Terrell Edmunds was absent Wednesday after taking part Tuesday, but Minkah Fitzpatrick, Arthur Maulet, Cam Sutton and Ahkello Witherspoon were all at their second straight practice.
Maulet said that was about the veteran players wanting to take ownership of the defense, especially given the number of returning players and the fact that the few new faces like Damontae Kazee and Levi Wallace are veterans themselves.
“It’s not a lot of new guys,” cornerback Arthur Maulet said. “There’s not a lot of new coaches. It’s time for us to take ownership on the secondary and play great this year.”
Maulet said that Kazee and Wallace have fit well into the room. That’s a process that Kazee is used to. He made the move from the Atlanta Falcons to the Dallas Cowboys in 2021 and now a year later, is in Pittsburgh.
The California native is far from home, but knows exactly what he needs to do to maximize his time in Pittsburgh.
“I learned just to go do football,” he said. “Football and back to my hotel. I don’t really do nothing. Stay out of the way.”
Someone whacked inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky with an errant football. That’s probably not the guy on the coaching staff I’d pick to mess with. Meanwhile, punter Pressley Harvin III nearly hit a cadre of media with a pair of errant punts. At least I think they were errant. Maybe he just didn’t like what we wrote.