PITTSBUGH — Rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett has cleared concussion protocol and is slated to start against the Las Vegas Raiders Saturday night, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said in his Tuesday press conference.
“The concussion component of where he is is behind us,” Tomlin said. “I think he’s got to check a box procedurally, but if we were to practice today, he would be a full participant.”
Pickett missed Sunday’s win against Carolina after leaving the team’s loss against Baltimore early on because of symptoms he showed following a sack by the Ravens’ Roquan Smith. He re-entered that contest before leaving for good and was replaced by veteran passer Mitch Trubisky.
This is Pickett’s second time in the concussion protocol this season. The first time, he missed one half of the team’s Week 6 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but returned the following week. Pickett was a limited participant in practice all last week before being ruled out against the Panthers on Saturday.
Trubisky also started in his place against the Panthers and had the benefit of an effective ground game. He was efficient through the air, as well, connecting on 17 of his 22 passes for 179 yards. He snuck in for a short score, too, following rushing strikes by Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren earlier in the matchup.
The Steelers will hope that Pickett’s turnover-free play continues in the Christmas Eve game, which promises to be chilly. It’s been five games since Pickett threw an interception, a good sign for any newcomer behind center. He has also increased his passer rating in six consecutive games.
Pittsburgh has long playoff odds, but Pickett’s return should provide a jolt of energy to a frigid Arcrisure Stadium. Both the Steelers and Raiders are 6-8, but are coming off wins last week and remain in the AFC playoff picture.