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Steelers Advised to Start QB Kenny Pickett, Add to...
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Steelers Advised to Start QB Kenny Pickett, Add to D-Line

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Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (left) and Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt.

On Thursday May 26, Brent Sobleski of Bleacher Report offered up a to-do list for the Pittsburgh Steelers — three things he thinks the organization should do before the start of the regular season. Realistically, only one of these things can be characterized as likely to happen, unless rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett exceeds expectations.


1. Hand Kenny Pickett the Starting Quarterback Job

First and foremost, Sobleski believes the Steelers should make rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett the starter from the get-go.

“Kenny Pickett is now the face of the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise and should be treated as such. There’s no reason to put training wheels on the rookie, and Mitchell Trubisky should be treated as a non-factor or a quality backup,” he writes, citing Pickett’s relatively advanced age (he turns 24 on June 6) and his experience operating in a pro-style offense at the University of Pittsburgh.

But the odds are probably against Pickett being the Week 1 starter. With two veteran quarterbacks on the roster — Trubisky and veteran backup Mason Rudolph — the Steelers don’t need to rush Pickett into action. Unless he’s obviously much better than Trubisky and Rudolph during training camp and the preseason, it would make more sense to hand him the reigns only if/when Trubisky (or Rudolph) falters in the early going. Having to bench him at any point would be less than ideal, and that risk is reduced if he’s given added time to acclimate to the NFL.

Of course, the best-laid plans can quickly go out the window if injuries strike the quarterback position.

Recall that in 2004 first-round QB Ben Roethlisberger entered training camp as the No. 3 quarterback; he moved into the backup role after Charlie Batch suffered a season-ending knee injury during the preseason. Roethlisberger was thrust into the role of starter only after Tommy Maddox was injured at Baltimore in Week 2.

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2. Extend All-Pro Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick

Next on Sobleski’s list is signing former first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick to a contract extension, one that keeps the two-time All-Pro in Pittsburgh through the prime years of his career.

This is likely to happen, albeit very close to the start of the regular-season, as with T.J. Watt in 2021 and Cameron Heyward in 2020.

Fitzpatrick has been called the “most complete safety” in the NFL and with relatively little money tied up in the quarterback position for the next few years, the Steelers can afford to extend him, even if it’s a market-setting deal.

Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick is scheduled to earn $10.612 million in 2022, the cost of the fifth-year option that the Steelers picked up in April 2021.


3. Address the Defensive Line

Last but not least, Sobleski recommends adding another piece or two to the defensive line, under the auspices of “keeping Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt fresh.”

The reality is, if Stephon Tuitt returns in 2022 and nose tackle Tyson Alualu makes a successful return from the broken ankle he suffered in Week 2 last season, the Steelers ought to be in good shape on the defensive line. That’s because the Steelers have depth options with significant upside potential, including 2021 fifth-round pick Isaiah Loudermilk and 2022 third-round pick DeMarvin Leal.

The Steelers also have sixth-year defensive tackle Montravius Adams, veteran Chris Wormley, and a pair of third-year defensive tackles in Carlos and Khalil Davis, who are twin brothers. Khalil Davis, who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, signed to Pittsburgh’s practice squad in November 2021.

Meanwhile, there are several other positions where the Steelers are in greater need of help, including offensive tackle. At the moment the Steelers have Chukwuma Okorafor starting on the right side, having recently inked a three-year contract extension. On the left the Steelers have second-year man Dan Moore Jr., a former fourth-round pick who started 16 games in 2021. But the depth remains a significant question mark.

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