Friday, September 23, 2022

Steelers should ‘absolutely’ make a change, says AFC Exec

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Everyone knew it was going to happen; just maybe not so soon. We’re a game and a half into the 2022 NFL season and the chants for Kenny Pickett are in full swing.

Since the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense is statistically bottom of the league, of course it has to be the quarterback. And one change would fix everything, right?

Steelers fans want Mitch Trubisky to get the old shot, and made that clear by booing him during the Sept. 18 home game against the New England Patriots. They want the shiny new toy, not the old used one. Many in the fanbase were clamoring for someone to replace Ben Roethlisberger during the two-year losing streak that saw Pittsburgh fail to make the playoffs, so they’re getting uneasy.

“With veteran quarterback Mitchell Trubisky failing to surpass 200 passing yards in either of his first two games, the Yinzers on 93.7FM have been screaming at The Fan and to all who will be listening that it’s time to take a look at the First-round rookie throw Kenny Pickett,” wrote Matt Lombardo, Heavy’s senior NFL reporter.

Roethlisberger’s Hall of Fame game has spoiled the fan base for future quarterbacks, and Trubisky is feeling the backlash from that.

“It is what it is. They just keep blocking it and playing football,” Trubisky said in a post-game press conference on Sept. 18.

The former draft pick runner-up is used to that. He spent four seasons in Chicago, where fans are just as hard on their quarterbacks as they are in Pittsburgh.

But this is not the Fan Controlled Football League. It’s the NFL, and Mike Tomlin can put whoever he wants in as quarterback. And he’s not ready to give in to Trubisky.

Fans aren’t the only ones excited about the Mitch Trubisky vs. Kenny Pickett debate. Lombardo spoke to AFC executives with differing opinions about what should happen in Pittsburgh.

An AFC scouting director said the Pittsburgh Steelers should switch to Kenny Pickett immediately.

“You should definitely go see Kenny Pickett today,” an AFC scouting director told Heavy. “Mitch has never been a winner.”

It’s not necessarily true that Trubisky was never a winner — he was did lead the Chicago Bears to two playoff appearances in three years. You have to be a winner to do that, but Trubisky never got her past the wild card round.

On the other hand, the Steelers’ brass appear — at least for now — alongside an AFC offensive coordinator who believes playing Pickett so early in the season is the wrong move.

“Not yet. The last thing you want to do is risk rushing him,” an AFC offensive coordinator told Heavy. “If I were in that space I would let it grow all year round. But if it is after week 6 or 7 it gets to the point that things are not going well, that’s the perfect time to make the move.”

Looks aren’t everything, but the rookie is appears ready to play. And while exhibition football is rarely a solid litmus test of how players will perform in the season, Pickett passed. Per PFF, he completed 29 of 36 passes (80 percent completion) for 261 yards and three touchdowns. Pickett also took care of the ball and never committed a turnover.

Matt Lombardo believes the rookie “could provide the spark the Steelers desperately need in a hard-fought AFC North.”

Jim NagyReese’s Senior Bowl executive director and former NFL scout agrees Pickett is ready to grab a helmet.

Nagy hosted Pickett at the 2022 Senior Bowl and watched him play during the preseason.

“For a young man in the NFL, a rookie coming off the chute, a lot of that has to do with the work ethic of a kid like Kenny [Pickett]’ Nagy said to Heavy. “If you put in the effort, the veterans on this team will follow you. I don’t know if they’re going to go in that direction with him, but I know that if they put him in, he’ll have the full support of every 10 other guys in this bunch.”

“I just haven’t seen an offense Kenny Pickett committed in the last three years where he didn’t move his boys,” Nagy explained. “I saw a couple of their pre-season games this summer and he certainly didn’t look like a rookie because he knew where to go with football and made quick decisions, he looked like quite an experienced guy.”

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ intent may be to invest in Kenny Pickett’s longevity by holding him off for as long as possible to throw him in the fire.

Mitch Trubisky’s ATTT currently ranks ninth at 2.61 with the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers. For comparison, Ben Roethlisberger’s average throwing time per PFF was 2.17 in 2020 and 2.27 in 2021 (both league-bests). And behind the Steelers offensive line, every second counts.

It’s thanks in part to ATTT that the Steelers have been able to withhold investments in their offensive line through the draft over the years. But they can’t wait much longer if the plan is to start Pickett before Trubisky leaves in 2024.

Despite Trubisky being fired three times as often in Week 2 as in Week 1, the line is said to be steadily improving, according to the PFF. The unit climbed two spots to No. 28 after the Steelers’ Patriots lost.

Pickett’s processing speed could deter Pittsburgh from making the switch. He averaged 3.2 seconds per throw on Pitt, which the PFF says is a “freezingly slow time that typically gets longer for young quarterbacks entering the NFL.”

In the preseason, Pickett picked up that pace while leading the offense while averaging 2.43 seconds per throw.

Looks aren’t everything, but the rookie is appears ready to play. And while exhibition football is rarely a solid litmus test of how players will perform in the season, Pickett passed. Per PFF, he completed 29 of 36 passes (80 percent completion) for 261 yards and three touchdowns. Pickett also took care of the ball and never committed a turnover.



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