It’s been almost 18 years since the Pittsburgh Steelers had a quarterback competition.
The post-Ben Roethlisberger era offers one of the biggest storylines leading up to the 2022 season, and it got even more intriguing after the 2022 NFL Draft.
After drafting Kenny Pickett with the No. 20 overall pick, the Steelers added a third quarterback to the mix. The local rookie will join Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph in what is expected to be a heated competition, one that coach Mike Tomlin sees as a challenge despite his enthusiasm.
“I hope it’s fierce because I know all three guys. I don’t expect anyone to be left behind,” Tomlin. told Rich Eisen of NFL Network on The Rich Eisen Show Wednesday. “The challenge is from a structure standpoint. Are we providing enough of a platform for all the guys to show what they’re capable of? And that’s going to be the component of the challenge. I’m excited to see these guys compete, as is that I’m in any position where you have some viable options. So we’re going to proceed with that understanding that it’s going to be a challenge from an organizational standpoint, but it’s a good challenge and I’m excited to see those guys pull off.”
Following Roethlisberger’s retirement, the Steelers signed Trubisky to a two-year deal and he’s likely to enter this summer as the favorite considering his overall experience. The former first-round pick signed expecting competition as he looks to regain a starting job after serving as the Bills’ backup QB for one season.
Rudolph is the only Steeler returning from the group and may have a slight advantage since he learned the system from offensive coordinator Matt Canada last season. The 26-year-old has logged 10 starts in his three seasons, producing 2,366 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while going 5-4-1.
Tomlin has already said that Pickett “certainly has a chance” to be the Week 1 starter as a rookie. The Pitt product earned the right to become the first quarterback removed from the board in the 2022 NFL Draft after a breakout senior season in which he set school records with 4,319 passing yards and 42 TDs.
Figuring out the number of first-team reps among the three during training camp and in the preseason will be the challenge Tomlin alluded to, but he doesn’t see a rookie entering the fray as a problem for his QB room. It’s a situation that recently drew attention in Tennessee after Ryan Tannehill said it wasn’t his job to mentor Malik Willis.
“It’s nice when it happens, but it’s certainly not necessary,” Tomlin said. “That’s why we have offensive coordinators, quarterback coaches, assistant quarterback coaches. People are employed and their sole focus is player development. Certainly there are opportunities for growth and development and learning opportunities between the players but that’s definitely not their role their role is to be ready to go and be good teammates and I think that’s probably what you’re talking about just in terms of providing common human decency and courtesy to somebody if you can help them in the road. I’m sure Ryan (Tannehill) is open to that, but I think he was just stating the obvious that he’s not employed to do that. He’s employed to play quarterback.”