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Sport Kenny Pickett vs. Mitchell Trubisky: Who is winning Steelers' QB1 battle to replace Ben Roethlisberger?

12:30  13 august  2022
12:30  13 august  2022 Source:   sportingnews.com

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The Steelers rolled with Ben Roethlisberger as their starting quarterback for 17 years. That streak will come to an end in 2022.

  Kenny Pickett vs. Mitchell Trubisky: Who is winning Steelers' QB1 battle to replace Ben Roethlisberger? © Provided by Sporting News

The 2021 NFL season was Roethlisberger's last in the NFL. He retired after the team lost to the Chiefs in the first round of the playoffs, and with good reason. Injuries had sapped his throwing power and most of his mobility by the end of his career, and that made it hard for him to be anything other than a dink-and-dunk quarterback.

Pittsburgh is facing uncertainty as it ushers in a new era at quarterback. It didn't land one of the higher-end quarterbacks on the trade market during the 2022 NFL offseason but instead added multiple players with upside to compete for the starting job.

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The Steelers signed Mitchell Trubisky as a free agent and then spent their first-round draft pick on Kenny Pickett. Those two, along with seventh-round project quarterback Chris Oladokun, have joined fifth-year Steeler Mason Rudolph on a depth chart that has no clear choice for the top of it.

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It looks as if it will be a three-horse race. Coach Mike Tomlin indicated in a recent interview that Trubisky, Pickett and Rudolph are all making a case to be the No. 1 QB.

They're making it difficult for us. It's tough to manage three capable guys, but they're forcing us to do it because they're making the necessary plays. They're anticipating, the timing has been good, [and] the accuracy has been good.

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  Mitchell Trubisky No. 1, Kenny Pickett No. 3 on initial Steelers depth chart It’s non-binding depth chart season in the NFL, and the Steelers have released one. With an ongoing quarterback competition, the first unofficial hierarchy officially places Mitchell Trubisky at the top of the stack. He’s No. 1, Mason Rudolph is No. 2, and rookie Kenny Pickett appears at No. 3. Trubisky has consistently been the starter [more]He’s No. 1, Mason Rudolph is No. 2, and rookie Kenny Pickett appears at No. 3.

The trio may be making it tough on Tomlin, but one of them appears to have the inside track on the starting job. Here's what to know about the state of the Steelers' preseason quarterback battle between Trubisky, Pickett and Rudolph.

What Mike Tomlin has said about Kenny Pickett

The Steelers had unique access to Pickett during the lead-up to the 2022 NFL Draft. The team shares facilities with Pitt's football program. Pickett was a four-year starter for the Panthers, so Tomlin and Co. got an up-close look at him.

They liked what they saw.

"One of the things that was very evident about Kenny being next door is he's just a ridiculous competitor," Tomlin told Rich Eisen on NFL Network's Day 3 coverage of the 2022 draft. "So, we're just excited about putting him in the mix and watching him compete against Mitch and Mason and seeing where that leads us."

As Tomlin indicated, Pickett wasn't guaranteed to be the team's starter despite being a first-round pick. The coach wanted to let Pittsburgh's unsettled quarterback situation play out and see if Pickett could beat out Trubisky and Rudolph.

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But Tomlin quickly affirmed that Pickett would be in the mix for the job.

He certainly has a chance [to be our Week 1 starter]. I agree with that sentiment of his readiness from a professional perspective.

In that interview with Eisen, Tomlin elaborated on why the Steelers spent a first-round selection on Pickett.

"It was two things that really attracted us to him from a floor standpoint," Tomlin said. "We thought he had pro-level anticipation. We thought he had pro-level accuracy. Often times, those are two variables that really require a lot of adjustment from a quarterbacking standpoint. We felt he came ready-made in those ways. Hopefully that's an asset to him in terms of being able to compete and being ready, if his performance dictates it."

IYER: When could Kenny Pickett start for the Steelers?

Fast-forward to training camp, and at least some of Pickett's pro readiness is showing. Tomlin praised Pickett's consistency in an Aug. 9 interview with CBS Sports.

Kenny P, I don't think you can get him in an environment where he gets flustered. . . . We saw that at Pitt and it's it's been the same. It doesn't matter what drill or what environment you put him in. He's Steady Eddy and really cool."

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Despite that characterization, Pickett was No. 3 on the initial Steelers quarterback depth chart of the 2022 preseason. The No. 1 player on that list was one of the team's big free-agent acquisitions.

What Mike Tomlin has said about Mitchell Trubisky

Tomlin said in the same Aug. 9 interview with CBS Sports that if the season started the next day, Trubisky would start.

The Steelers' coach praise all three quarterbacks in the competition but said that one key trait separated Trubisky from the pack.

"Mitch's silver bullet, if you will, is his fluidity and mobility," Tomlin said. "He's a really good athlete."

Tomlin said during the 2022 offseason that the franchise would prioritize mobility as it looked for a successor to Roethlisberger. Therefore, it's no surprise that Trubisky would be his starter at this point in the competition.

Tomlin's endorsement of Trubisky was notable given that he was unwilling to call the 27-year-old the team's starter at other points during the offseason.

In March, Tomlin said that the Steelers "were attracted to [Trubisky's] upside."

He’s young and experienced. He’s won — to be quite honest with you, he’s probably won more than anybody else that was in the field, and he didn’t cost us any draft capital. It allowed us to maintain all our picks, and you guys know how we feel about building our team through the draft. So, there were a lot of things about him that was attractive to us.

Tomlin says Trubisky leads Steelers’ QB race, but Pickett and Rudolph are “making it difficult”

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Then, the Steelers drafted Pickett in April, Tomlin said in May that he could become the starter, and in June he said he expected a "fierce" competition for the starting job.

But now, Trubisky is No. 1 on the Steelers' initial quarterback depth chart. He will try to use the preseason to prove that he belongs there long term.

MORE: Steelers' Mike Tomlin explains why Trubisky leads QB competition

What Mike Tomlin has said about Mason Rudolph

Lost in the acquisitions of Trubisky, Pickett and Oladokun was the fact that Rudolph is still on the roster.

Rudolph is entering his fifth year with the Steelers. The 2018 third-round pick has started 10 games for Pittsburgh and has posted a 5-4-1 record, a 61.5 completion percentage, 2,366 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Rudolph has never staked a claim to the Steelers' starting job. Even when Roethlisberger was hurt, he split time at quarterback with Duck Hodges, in part because of injuries to Rudolph and solid play by Hodges.

Still, Tomlin hasn't ruled Rudolph out of the competition. He has praised the veteran at times in the offseason. He noted in late May that Rudolph was handling himself well in the quarterback battle.

He's taken advantage of the opportunities. He's been detailed. He's doing a good job of communicating with others. He's been competitive. Not anything out of the usual in terms of his approach to business.

Tomlin not only likes Rudolph's approach, but he also noted in his August interview with CBS Sports that Rudolph "throws a really good deep ball." That has been enough to keep him in the competition, and his veteran status has given him the No. 2 spot on the depth chart ahead of Pickett.

Still, Rudolph seems like the longest shot of the three to win the starting job. He might not even make the Steelers' roster if Trubisky and Pickett show enough during the preseason. Pittsburgh can save $3 million by parting with Rudolph.

MORE: Ben Roethlsiberger says Steelers didn't want him back for 2022

Who is starting the Steelers' first preseason game?

Trubisky is expected to start the Steelers' first preseason game, but all of Pittsburgh's quarterbacks are expected to see action in Week 1 of the preseason. Tomlin hasn't said whether the rotation will change in preseason Week 2.

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