With the 2022 preseason now in the books, we are likely just a day or two away from Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin naming a starting quarterback for Week 1 of the regular season. The conventional wisdom is that Tomlin is going to go with free agent acquisition and former No. 2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky, but there is anything but a consensus among analysts.
Pittsburgh’s Offense ‘Moves Differently’ With No. 8 at QB
For one, former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks has already come out and said that “it’s time to end the suspense and anoint the 24-year-old rookie as the Steelers’ QB1 of the present and future.”
It’s more than the fact that Pickett finished the preseason with a 124.7 passer rating, having completed 29 of 36 passes for 261 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
“Simply put, this team just moves differently with No. 8 at the helm,” added Brooks. “That not only stands out in film study, but it was apparent when I watched the game (at Jacksonville) from the press box last weekend. The vibe on the Steelers’ sideline is different with Pickett making plays, and (his) ultra-confident head coach must feel that energy when he is watching his young quarterback go to work.”
That said, “Pickett has earned the right to run out of the tunnel with the 1s in Week 1,” continued Brooks, who was a second-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in 1994 and played defensive back for five different teams over the course of his five-year NFL career. “From his performance between the lines to his strong intangibles (intelligence, confidence, poise and grit), the rookie has checked all of the boxes that coaches and teammates typically want to see from a young quarterback.”
Chris Simms: Kenny Pickett ‘is a Starting QB Right Now’
To be sure, Brooks isn’t the only former player who was been impressed. That includes ex-Steelers cornerback (and new Steelers scout) Ike Taylor, who wants to see Tomlin “roll with Kenny Pickett.”
Then there’s former NFL quarterback turned NBC analyst Chris Simms, who admits that Pickett has been better than he expected coming out of the University of Pittsburgh.
“He can just play. Knows where to go with the ball. Impressed with his control of the ball. And under pressure with people in his face – holy crapola. He doesn’t watch the rush and keeps his eyes downfield,” tweeted Simms, who claims that “Pickett is a starting QB right now.”
Yet unlike Brooks, Simms admits to being “a little scared” about starting Pickett from the get-go, considering that Pittsburgh’s first three games (at Cincinnati, New England, at Cleveland) present an above-average challenge — and will take place within a span of 11 days.
“Not to mention, the Steelers’ offensive line has not acquitted itself well in the preseason, looking like a serious bugaboo for whoever lines up under center,” as Brooks put it.
It’s also worth a reminder that Pickett hasn’t yet played with Pittsburgh’s first-team offense, or worked against a full complement of first-team defenders, which is why ex-Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch likes the idea of starting the season with Trubisky.
But it’s hard to ignore how admirably Pickett has performed throughout the preseason, with both Pro Football Focus and NFL.com highlighting the following back shoulder throw to wide receiver Miles Boykin.
“With how the past month has played out, I just can’t see Tomlin starting Trubisky over Pickett without drawing quizzical looks from his veterans in the locker room,” concluded Brooks.