On Saturday, August 13, the Pittsburgh Steelers will host the Seattle Seahawks at Acrisure Stadium in the preseason opener for both teams. And if you believe at least one particular member of the Pittsburgh sports media, 2022 first-round pick Kenny Pickett may be held out of the game entirely.
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Kenny Pickett ‘May Not Be Ready’ for Preseason Action
“Pickett isn’t close to being ready. In fact, I’m told he may not be ready to play exhibitions yet. That’s how shaky they feel he has looked in camp,” Mark Madden told Tim Benz during TribLive’s “Madden Monday” podcast on August 8.
“Trubisky needs reps,” added Madden. “If you made me predict right now what the division of duty will be in the exhibition game on Saturday — the first preseason game — I’d say Trubisky and Rudolph each play half, and Pickett maybe gets a series.”
Madden said he believed the most sensible approach would be to start fourth-year Steeler Mason Rudolph during the early part of the regular season.
“You know he can play a little,” he said, referring to Rudolph’s 5-4-1 career record as a starter. Madden also acknowledged that the fan base would be unhappy if using Rudolph is direction the Steelers choose to go.
“The great unwashed here in Pittsburgh have long since decided that they don’t like Mason Rudolph, but he’s having the best camp and has the most experience in the offense,” noted Madden, before adding, “What would be wrong with Rudolph starting the first game — maybe starting the first couple — while Trubisky catches up on the learning curve?”
Madden & Benz ‘Worried’ About Kenny Pickett
“I’m worried about Pickett, though,” added Madden. “Tim, you’ve been there, you tell me. The people I talk to tell me he looks way behind. Way behind. Not that he is going to be terrible forever, not that he can’t be their quarterback for the long term when the long term gets here. But like, way behind — as in no chance of playing this year.”
Benz agreed with Madden’s assessment.
“From what I saw, up until this week it wasn’t even functional. Like, you couldn’t even tell what the offense was supposed to be doing, and I don’t know if that was mainly [Rudolph], all because of him, circumstances beyond him. I think this past week — later in the week, after he got some reps with the 2s and it looked like the second-team offense was ahead of the second-team defense — he looked like he at least belonged.
“I hear they hesitate to even play him in the first exhibition,” added Madden, before Benz made an excuse for Pickett’s struggles.
“I think that might have a lot to do with the third-string offensive line because it is apparently not functional. These are third-string Steelers defensive linemen they are going against and they are getting housed on a regular basis,” he said.
“It’s always something. … I want to hear excuses why things are going right, not why they are going wrong,” offered Madden.
“Here’s what I’ve heard about Pickett that is a little surprising to me,” concluded Benz, summing up the exchange. “His issues weren’t about him getting the verbiage out of his mouth, it’s not getting the team in and out of the huddle, it’s not knowledge of the playbook or the offense. It’s he’s having a very difficult time dealing with the speed of the game and not putting much air under the ball when he throws deep and knowing how quickly the ball needs to come out and the quickness of the reads. All of these things we thought he would be ahead of the curve on than the average quarterback. He is not.”
All that being said, if Pickett stays a firm No. 3 on the depth chart, that would seem to reduce the chances that the Steelers try to trade Mason Rudolph prior to the start of the regular season, despite Rudolph being viewed as “attractive” trade bait, according to the Post-Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo in June.
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