Although the Steelers had their mini-bye window to consider an early Mitch Trubisky-to-Kenny Picketttransition, no change is expected this week. Trubisky is set to start against the Jets, despite mounting scrutiny.
A report that surfaced just before the Steelers’ Week 3 loss in Cleveland indicated Mike Tomlin wanted to make this a true redshirt year for Pickett, which would have Trubisky starting throughout the season. That timeline may be shortening. The Steelers are now seen as wanting to give Trubisky until around the midseason point, per Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post.
That said, some in the organization may not be as patient. Some calls within the building have come for a quicker Pickett promotion, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (video link). A “strong push” exists in the building to pass the baton to Pickett, per Florio. Considering how Trubisky has played, this is understandable.
An organizational split regarding Pickett’s timeline would be an interesting plotline, though Tomlin has certainly built up enough capital to make the call. Setting a timetable of this sort is one of the last new challenges for the 16th-year HC, who had Roethlisberger installed as his starter since being hired in 2007. Tomlin has praised Trubisky, but calls for a Pickett bump will only become louder if the former No. 2 overall pick’s mediocre play persists. Pittsburgh ranks 31st in total offense, with Trubisky averaging only 5.5 yards per attempt — last among qualified starters. Steelers receivers have shown frustration with Trubisky this season; both Chase Claypool and George Pickens remain under 80 yards for the year.
In a division with established quarterbacks — Jacoby Brissett is not that, but the Browns’ stopgap starter outplayed Trubisky in Week 3 — Pittsburgh is in danger of falling too far behind early. Following their Week 4 Jets matchup, the Steelers’ schedule becomes much more difficult. From Weeks 5-8, the Steelers will face the Bills, Buccaneers, Dolphins and Eagles. Three of those games are away from home.
That schedule stretch would bring a stiff challenge for a rookie quarterback, but as of now, Pickett’s ceiling is higher than Trubisky’s. It seems clear Tomlin would prefer to avoid throwing the Pitt product into the fire during the upcoming gauntlet, which precedes a Week 9 bye. But if Trubisky continues to restrict the Steelers’ offense, it could put the accomplished HC to a decision on whether to change his designed timetable.
Gilbert is returning for his third stint with the Steelers after being released from the practice squad 10 days ago. He started in the NFL when Pittsburgh signed him as an undrafted free agent last year. He ended up on the practice squad but was signed off of it by the Lions in October. He appeared in eight games for Detroit, but only had significant playing time in one game: the matchup against his former team, the Steelers, which ended in a tie. In the game, Gilbert showed his old team his worth with three tackles, a forced fumble, and a pass defensed. Perhaps the Steelers felt it was a good time to bring Gilbert back as starting cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon hasn’t practiced all week with a hamstring injury.
McCollum oddly also has ties to Detroit. After originally signing last year as an undrafted free agent with the Texans, McCollum was signed off their practice squad by the Lions after Week 4. McCollum played in every remaining game for Detroit, mostly on special teams, and even started a Week 14 contest against the Broncos.
September 30th, 2022 at 1:19pm CST by Sam Robinson
As we exit September, trade rumors will become a steady NFL topic. This year’s deadline falls on Nov. 1. That will return cap-space discussions to the forefront. Here is how every team stacks up financially going into October, via Over The Cap.
Cleveland Browns: $35.94MM
Philadelphia Eagles: $10.89MM
Denver Broncos: $10.67MM
Carolina Panthers: $10.47MM
Las Vegas Raiders: $10.35MM
Dallas Cowboys: $9.25MM
Pittsburgh Steelers: $8.64MM
Green Bay Packers: $8.57MM
Indianapolis Colts: $7.97MM
Atlanta Falcons: $7.92MM
New York Jets: $6.97MM
Chicago Bears: $6.84MM
San Francisco 49ers: $6.75MM
Miami Dolphins: $6.51MM
Arizona Cardinals: $6.25MM
Los Angeles Chargers: $5.83MM
New York Giants: $5.49MM
Jacksonville Jaguars: $5.41MM
Los Angeles Rams: $5.38MM
Baltimore Ravens: $4.51MM
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $3.87MM
New England Patriots: $3.5MM
Cincinnati Bengals: $3.16MM
New Orleans Saints: $2.86MM
Detroit Lions: $2.64MM
Washington Commanders: $2.58MM
Buffalo Bills: $2.44MM
Tennessee Titans: $2.41MM
Seattle Seahawks: $2.28MM
Kansas City Chiefs: $2.12MM
Houston Texans: $1.64MM
Minnesota Vikings: $1.47MM
The Eagles’ number is certainly far closer to the Vikings’ last-place figure than what the Browns have stockpiled. Cleveland would stand to have room to augment its 2022 roster, via a patient free agent or a trade. That could depend on where Jacoby Brissett has the team stationed going into the Nov. 1 deadline. But the Browns also appear to be preparing for their Deshaun Watson future. Watson’s unprecedented contract spikes from a $9.4MM cap number (2022) to a record-shattering $54.99MM numbers from 2023-26. As that reality awaits, the Browns rolling over cap space to 2023 would be prudent.
With Sterling Shepard‘s ACL tear moving the veteran wide receiver to IR, the Giants will need to both cover that cost ($6.3MM) and add a contract to fill the roster spot. Every team will go through versions of that issue this season, as injuries pile up. The Giants are prepared to eat a significant chunk ofKenny Golladay‘s 2022 base salary ($13MM) to move him, eyeing an escape from his $4.5MM 2023 guarantee. No takers have emerged, though it will be interesting to see if a market for the former Pro Bowler forms once injuries affect more teams’ receiver situations.
September 27th, 2022 at 3:59pm CST by Sam Robinson
Jordan Berry is back for another Steelers stint. Pittsburgh’s former long-term punter reached an agreement to join the team’s practice squad Tuesday.
This latest Berry-Steelers pact comes after Mike Tomlin said second-year punter Pressley Harvin is dealing with hip discomfort. Berry worked out for the Steelers on Monday. To make room for Berry on their 16-man P-squad, the Steelers cut linebacker Delontae Scott.
Originally a Steelers UDFA back in 2015, Berry signed an extension to stay with the team in February 2018. He later signed a two-year deal in 2019. But the Steelers cut bait on that contract in 2020, releasing Berry and using Dustin Colquitt as their punter to start that season. The Australian specialist, however, returned to replace Colquitt midway through that season.
Harvin’s 2021 arrival, via a seventh-round pick, led Berry to the Vikings, who gave him one-year deals in 2021 and earlier this year. Berry, 31, did not win Minnesota’s punting competition this year, leading him back to free agency.
While Berry represents insurance at this point, he has appeared in more games (91) than any Steelers punter this century. Only Bobby Walden, Josh Miller and Craig Colquitt have punted in more games for the franchise. Playing indoors regularly for the first time as a pro, Berry averaged a career-high 46.5 yards per punt with the Vikings last year.
September 23rd, 2022 at 10:10pm CST by Sam Robinson
The Steelers lost their second straight game Thursday, and their offense has been held under 20 points in each of their three contests. Mike Tomlin remains committed to Mitch Trubisky as his starter, however.
Tomlin said postgame he is “definitively” not planning to make a quarterback change. The 16th-year Steelers HC went further before his team’s Week 3 game. Tomlin’s plan is to stick with Trubisky throughout the season and give Kenny Picketta true redshirt year, according to Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer (h/t Awful Announcing), who adds Tomlin told him, “This is Trubisky’s team.”
This endorsement says a lot about the Steelers’ Pickett timeline, and while it would still be stunning if the team sat its first-round quarterback throughout the season, Tomlin’s pregame and postgame stances makes it look like a long NFL onramp is indeed being built for this year’s No. 20 overall pick. This plan would qualify as a zag compared to how most teams have handled first-round quarterbacks over the past decade.
Although Jordan Love and Patrick Mahomes (save for a Week 17 cameo five years ago) were able to go through full-on redshirt years, their respective teams had solid-to-excellent (in Aaron Rodgers‘ case) starters. Trubisky checks in well below the Rodgers or Chiefs-years Alex Smith level. The Steelers, however, not entertaining a Pickett promotion during their upcoming mini-bye effectively affirms their view of the local rookie’s progress.
Pickett played well during the preseason, but Trubisky was viewed as the first-stringer throughout the offseason. The Pitt product also was a four-year starter at the ACC school that shares a home stadium with the Steelers, giving Tomlin and Co. a fairly good indication of his readiness. Pickett sitting throughout would still surprise, given that this is his age-24 season and his upside outpaces Trubisky’s at this point in the latter’s career.
Trubisky only spent one season as a full-time college starter — at North Carolina in 2016 — but was among the bevy of first-round picks to take their NFL team’s reins early in his first season. The Bears gave him the call in Week 5 of the 2017 campaign. Excluding the Mahomes-Love-Trey Lance genre of rookie QB and the two first-rounders who did not hold down the job after seeing first-string action as rookies (Johnny Manziel, Paxton Lynch), every first-round QB since 2012 has been given a genuine first-season run as a starter.
Should the Steelers insist on Pickett sitting in 2022, they do have third-stringer Mason Rudolph in place. The team passed on trade interest in its fifth-year reserve arm. With Pickett having leapfrogged Rudolph on the depth chart, it would surprise if the longtime Ben Roethlisberger backup usurped Trubisky anytime soon.
Pickett questions will likely continue for the Steelers, whose offense appears to have a low ceiling as presently constructed. Then again, the franchise prioritizing Pickett’s growth over 2022 success would make sense as a long-term plan. This latest report certainly makes Pittsburgh’s Roethlisberger succession plan more interesting.
A Kansas City-area native, Blanton will leave his home town again but rejoin a Rams team that carried him on its active roster or practice squad from 2019-21. Rams tight end Brycen Hopkins ran into a three-game suspension this week.
Jones vied for the Titans’ starting left guard job, which Rodger Saffold‘s cap-casualty cut vacated in March. Despite signing Jones to a two-year, $4.8MM deal in free agency, the Titans gave the gig to former UDFA Aaron Brewer. Although Jones has not played this season, he must miss four more games because of this transaction.
Kazee was suspended three games for violating the league’s policy on substances of abuse. After signing with the Steelers this offseason, he landed on injured reserve after the preseason. Per ESPN’s Brooke Pryor (on Twitter), Kazee will be allowed to serve his suspension while he’s on IR.
Hopkins was also suspended three games for violating the NFL’s policy on substances of abuse.
September 21st, 2022 at 9:07am CST by Sam Robinson
A Buccaneers contributor for the past four seasons, Andrew Adams is joining a third team since his Tampa stint ended. After signing with the Giants earlier this year and then landing with the Steelers’ practice squad, Adams is now a Titan.
Tennessee is signing the veteran safety off Pittsburgh’s practice squad, per ProFootballNetwork.com’s Aaron Wilson (on Twitter). Adams, 29, is a six-year veteran who has spent time on the Giants and Bucs’ active rosters. He will be on the Titans’ 53-man roster Wednesday.
Although Adams’ Giants deal did not lead to a spot on their 53-man roster this year, the former UDFA has made 35 career starts. He opened his career by moving into New York’s starting lineup, during the team’s most recent playoff season (2016), and was an 11-game starter for Todd Bowles‘ first Tampa Bay defense three years ago.
The latter bump came after Adams intercepted four passes with the 2018 Bucs. Adams played all 20 Bucs games during their 2020 Super Bowl-winning season, working as a backup behind Jordan Whitehead and Antoine Winfield Jr., and started three games last year for the team. Pro Football Focus graded Adams as a solid safety last season, on 214 defensive snaps. He worked extensively as a Bucs special-teamer as well, seeing time on more than 60% of Tampa Bay’s special teams snaps from 2020-21.
The Titans have two solidified safety starters, in Kevin Byard and Amani Hooker, but the team placed backup A.J. Moore on IR last week. Lonnie Johnson, who has bounced from cornerback to safety over his career, has also been with three teams this year (Texans, Chiefs, Titans). Joshua Kalu, who caught on with the Titans just before camp, is the AFC South team’s other backup safety.
September 21st, 2022 at 8:47am CST by Sam Robinson
After a 12-year career spent in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Joe Haden is walking away from the game. The former Pro Bowl cornerback plans to retire, according to agent Drew Rosenhaus (via Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper).
While Haden drew some interest this offseason, he did not sign with a team ahead of training camp. The 33-year-old defender ended his career as a 149-game starter. That ranks as a top-50 total in NFL history at cornerback. Among active corners, only Patrick Peterson has lined up as a first-stringer more often.
The Cardinals, Dolphins, Rams and Raiders showed interest this offseason, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (on Twitter). Haden was said to be weighing offers. If so, none of the teams’ proposals did enough to convince him to play a 13th season, but Fowler adds the longtime starter entered free agency planning to do so.
The first cornerback chosen in the 2010 draft (No. 7 overall), Haden earned Pro Bowl nods with the Browns and Steelers. He spent time anchoring secondaries in Cleveland and, after a late-summer release in 2017, became a key figure on a few Steelers playoff teams. Lasting longer than most as a No. 1 corner, Haden made Pro Bowls with the 2013 and ’14 Browns and received his third invite in 2019 — at age 30 — with the Steelers. The 5-foot-11 defender ended his career with 29 interceptions; a six-INT rookie season did the most to bolster that total.
Haden signed a Browns extension in 2014 and played three seasons on that contract but was one of a few veterans to leave the team during its aggressive rebuild attempt from 2016-17. The Browns attempted to keep the ex-Florida Gator on a reduced salary and made efforts to trade him, but the team’s top corner instead ended up on the open market. Although Haden became connected to several other teams — the Dolphins, Eagles, Saints, Chiefs, Cowboys and 49ers — in free agency, he chose the Steelers after visit that occurred hours after his Browns exit. The short Rust Belt trek produced a three-year, $27MM deal, the first of Haden’s two Steelers agreements.
After the arrivals of Haden and T.J. Watt in 2017, the Steelers made a run at the AFC’s No. 1 seed. Ryan Shazier‘s injury and the controversial Jesse James touchdown overturn re-routed the 13-3 team to the No. 2 seed, and an eventual divisional-round loss, but that season began a lengthy Haden second act. The Steelers extended Haden in 2019 — a two-year, $22MM accord — and he ended up starting 67 games with his second NFL employer. That period produced top-10 total defenses from 2017-20 in Pittsburgh and three playoff berths. Haden angled for a third Steelers deal last year, but the team moved on via younger, cheaper options this offseason.
Haden ended up doing incredibly well for himself financially in the NFL, making more than $121MM in 12 years. He arrived during the last draft to feature monster rookie contracts for first-rounders, before the 2011 CBA changed the rookie salary scale, landing a five-year, $40MM deal in 2010. That figure eclipses what 2022 No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker signed for this offseason. The Browns gave Haden a five-year deal in 2014 (worth $67.5MM) as well.