Kenny Pickett

Steelers To Start Mason Rudolph In Week 18

The final week of the regular season will begin with the Ravens and Steelers facing each other. While the former team has clinched the top seed in the AFC, the latter enters the contest with their playoff hopes on the line.

Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett is in better shape from a health perspective than he was last week as he continues to recover from ankle surgery, head coach Mike Tomlin said on Monday. In spite of that, he announced that Mason Rudolph will start once again on Saturday. The upcoming game will mark Rudolph’s third consecutive start.

When Pickett when down with an ankle injury which required a procedure, Mitch Trubisky took over on offense. The latter’s struggles led to Rudolph taking over midway through the Steelers’ loss to the Colts, however, and he was given the nod for Week 16. The 28-year-old impressed in Pittsburgh’s win over Cincinnati, meaning that Pickett’s return to practice was insufficient to make another QB change the following week.

Rudolph and the Steelers’ offense delivered a strong showing on Sunday in Seattle, leading the team to a 30-23 victory and improving their record to 9-7. An AFC wild-card berth is still in play as a result, making Tomlin’s decision under center a crucial one. Pickett will be able to practice more in the coming days than he did last week, and as such he will likely be able to dress for the regular season finale. As things stand now, though, he will not be counted on in a must-win game.

With the Ravens having locked up the No. 1 seed, the strong possibility exists they will rest a number of key starters on Saturday. While that would help the Steelers’ playoff push, they will require a win and help from at least one other result to secure a postseason berth. A pending free agent, Rudolph could help not only Pittsburgh’s short-term prospects but also his financial outlook for the offseason by continuing his strong play in Week 18.

Steelers QB Kenny Pickett Expected To Return In Week 17; Mason Rudolph To Start

DECEMBER 29: Tomlin confirmed Friday it will be Rudolph starting against the Seahawks. Pickett is close to full strength, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, but the Steelers will stick with Rudolph — their third-stringer for most of the past two seasons — after his performance against the Bengals. A sixth-year veteran, Rudolph has now been slotted in all three positions on Pittsburgh’s QB depth chart this season.

DECEMBER 26, 11:33am: When speaking to the media on Tuesday, head coach Mike Tomlin said the team will adopt a similar setup to the one used at practice last week. As a result, Pickett will see some reps as his recovery continues, but for now Rudolph remains atop the depth chart. The latter is in line to hold first-team duties in consecutive games after seeing a combined two starts from 2020-22.

8:58am: The Steelers put an end to a three-game losing streak this weekend with Mason Rudolph under center. The team’s third-stringer may have played his way into another start, but Kenny Pickett could be an option in time for their next contest.

The latter is expected to return to the lineup for Week 17, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (video link). Pickett has been sidelined for three full games after undergoing surgery on a high ankle sprain. Pittsburgh elected not to place him on injured reserve, a move which would have guaranteed a four-week absence. That left the door open to a quicker return, but reports pointed to a month-long absence being expected.

Getting Pickett back would be a welcomed development for the Steelers, although the team’s offense has been a sore spot for much of the season with and without him in the lineup. Rudolph posted a passer rating of 124 in Week 16’s win over the Bengals, a game which had major implications for Pittsburgh’s playoff chances. It would come as a surprise, however, if Pickett did not get the nod in the event he received clearance to return to the lineup.

The top quarterback selected in the 2022 class, Pickett has not progressed in his second season as many hoped he would. The 25-year-old has been at the heart of a passing attack which struggled to find a rhythm during the early portions of the season. That led to the firing of offensive coordinator Matt Canada, but the chances of the current setup with Mike Sullivan serving as play-caller remaining in place beyond this season are slim.

That is in part due to the underwhelming play of backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who originally filled in for Pickett after his injury. The former No. 2 pick was replaced in favor of Rudolph, however, and he faces an uncertain future with the team despite being under contract through 2025. Pickett, too, is the subject of questions regarding his long-term viability given his lack of development in his brief NFL tenure.

Strong play at the QB spot from Pickett or Rudolph would help the Steelers’ playoff push. The 8-7 outfit is still in contention for a wild-card spot with games against the Seahawks and Ravens remaining on the schedule. With plenty still on the line, Pickett’s status throughout the week will be worth monitoring.

Steelers To Start Mason Rudolph In Week 16

DECEMBER 21: For a third straight game, the Steelers will be without Pickett. Tomlin confirmed the second-year starter will miss Week 16, bringing Rudolph back to the forefront. After an eight-start 2019 season, the longtime Ben Roethlisberger backup has made two starts since.

DECEMBER 18: As foreshadowed over the weekend, the Steelers will be making a switch under center. Head coach Mike Tomlin announced on Monday that Mason Rudolph will get the start in Week 16 against the Bengals.

In his post-game remarks after a loss to the Colts on Saturday, Tomlin declined to confirm if Mitch Trubisky would retain the starting role. Tomlin hinted that changes on offense would be coming after Pittsburgh lost a third straight game to drop to 7-7. Now, that has been confirmed.

Rudolph will receive first-team reps in practice this week, although Tomlin did say (via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor) that starter Kenny Pickett has a chance to return to the field in time for the Cincinnati game. With Rudolph already having been named the starter, though, Pickett’s return would only be in a backup capacity as he recovers from ankle surgery.

Trubisky took over for Pickett during the Steelers’ upset loss to the Cardinals. He then started against the Patriots and Colts, games in which the team’s offensive struggles continued. In need of a late-season spark to stay alive in the wild-card race, Pittsburgh will now turn to Rudolph, who made his 2023 debut in the closing moments of Saturday’s game. The 28-year-old did not see the field last year, and the most recent of his 10 career starts came in 2021.

Rudolph was expected to find himself on a new team this offseason by means of a free agent departure. Signing with a new team could have created a clearer path to playing time, but in May he ultimately decided to re-up with the Steelers once again. That one-year pact worth the veteran minimum will now give the former third-rounder another opportunity to earn a role in Pittsburgh or a new team in the offseason.

Unlike Rudolph, Trubisky is on the books through 2025. The former No. 2 pick joined the Steelers on a two-year deal last spring, and he inked an extension this past offseason to continue serving as Pickett’s backup. Trubisky has not fared well during his time on the field this season, however, and today’s move marks a blow to the confidence the team has in him given the importance of their three-game stretch to close out the season.

Tomlin also announced safety Minkah Fitzpatrick will miss the Steelers’ contest against the Bengals. The All-Pro is dealing with a knee injury which forced him to leave the Colts loss. While Fitzpatrick’s’ absence will be felt on defense, plenty of attention will be on Rudolph and the offense as the Steelers look to end their losing streak and keep their playoff chances alive.

Steelers Notes: Tomlin, Sullivan, Pickett

The Steelers’ Mitchell Trubisky-quarterbacked losses to the Cardinals and Patriots are not likely to lead to a Mike Tomlin ouster. The patient organization is not expected to move the 17th-year HC to the hot seat, but some issues with Tomlin’s moves have come up within the building.

As of now, it does not look likely the Steelers will make another in-house promotion to fill the offensive coordinator role. Play-caller Mike Sullivan has next to no chance to follow in Randy Fichtner and Matt Canada‘s footsteps, according to Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post.

Although the Steelers received an initial bump with Sullivan calling the shots, it was short-lived. They surpassed 400 total yards for the first time since Week 2 of the 2020 season, but the team has endured ugly home losses in the weeks since. A former Buccaneers and Giants OC, Sullivan is working as the Steelers’ play-caller while Eddie Faulkner — previously the team’s running backs coach — holds the interim OC title. Both Fichtner (who replaced Todd Haley in 2018) and Canada (who replaced Fichtner in 2021) were elevated from QBs coach to OC; Sullivan is unlikely to make the same move. Some of Tomlin’s hiring choices have drawn questions inside the organization, and La Canfora adds it is likely ownership will play a role as Tomlin searches for his next play-caller.

Slow starts and the inconsistent usage of promising former UDFA Jaylen Warren have also confounded some in the team’s building, per La Canfora, but Kenny Pickett‘s status is also worth monitoring. Last year’s No. 20 overall pick has not taken off in his second season, and while he has not had much time to work with Sullivan calling the plays, the Pitt product has underwhelmed based on his draft status. Questions within the organization remain concerning Pickett’s development, JLC adds.

Two years remain on Pickett’s rookie contract, and although the Steelers’ next OC will play the lead role in this development effort, the team has seen its efforts thus far stall. Pickett sits 25th in QBR, after ranking 20th in a low-octane rookie season that did include some promising late-game showings near its conclusion. Pickett has managed only 13 touchdown passes in 24 starts; he has posted just a 6.3-yard average per attempt over his career. It is not yet known if the Steelers want to take the route the 2020 Bears took with Trubisky, acquiring a veteran (Nick Foles) to compete with the scuffling starter. But concern about Pickett’s progress is probably warranted at this point.

Tomlin, 51, did not receive an extension this offseason, but if the Steelers are planning to retain him for 2024 — thus far, all signs point to the affirmative — they will likely hand out another contract before next season to avoid lame-duck status. Once again, the well-regarded HC’s .500-or-better streak is in jeopardy. Trubisky is set to make another start, and the wild-card contender (7-6) is sinking fast.

Even with the Steelers’ penchant for coach stability, Tomlin has generated scrutiny in recent years. The team has not won a playoff game since a touchdown-less triumph over the Chiefs in the 2016 divisional round, losing twice at home since. The Steelers’ status quo may face bigger-picture questions in 2024. How the franchise, which is still positioned in a wild-card spot despite the recent defeats, reassembles pieces may well become pivotal toward Tomlin’s long-term standing.

Steelers Rule Out Kenny Pickett For Week 15; Mitch Trubisky To Remain Starter

The Steelers were without Kenny Pickett for their Thursday night loss to kick off Week 14. The same will hold true of their starting quarterback for their next game.

[RELATED: Mike Tomlin Not On Hot Seat]

When speaking to the media on Monday, head coach Mike Tomlin announced Pickett will be out for Pittsburgh’s Saturday contest against the Colts. As he recovers from surgery on a sprained ankle, Mitch Trubisky will again get the nod for Pittsburgh in a game with signficant AFC playoff implications.

A report from last week indicated the Steelers were preparing for a four-week Pickett absence, so today’s update comes as little surprise. Pittsburgh elected not to place the 2022 first-rounder on injured reserve, though, leaving the door open to a return on a shorter timeline. While Pickett continues to rehab from surgery, Trubisky will be counted on to deliver an improved performance from the Steelers’ offense, a unit which has drawn heavy criticism throughout the season.

OC Matt Canada was fired in a rare in-season coaching change, but the new setup on the sidelines did not produce a spark over a disappointing two-game span last week. Losses to the Cardinals and Patriots leave the Steelers at 7-6, making them one of six teams at that record in the AFC’s wild-card picture. The Colts are another, and they will have Gardner Minshew at quarterback in what will be a battle of the backups this Saturday.

While Trubisky is in line to get another start – his seventh as a Steeler – third-stringer Mason Rudolph will also get some practice work this week, Tomlin added. However, ESPN’s Brooke Pryor notes it is unlikely the latter will realistically receive a chance to start. Regardless of who is under center, the Steelers will require improved play on offense compared to recent performances to maintain a playoff position.

Latest On Steelers QB Kenny Pickett

The Steelers made unwanted history over the past few days by losing consecutive contests against teams eight games under .500 via their upset defeats against the Cardinals and Patriots. In the latter contest, backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky filled in for an injured Kenny Pickett. That setup will likely continue for the time being.

Pickett suffered a high ankle sprain during Sunday’s loss to Arizona, and he underwent surgery the next day in an attempt to minimize the time he missed as a result of the injury. Pittsburgh elected not to place him on injured reserve, a move which would have guaranteed a four-week absence. In spite of that, the team is indeed “bracing” for the possibility of Pickett missing that much time, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports.

The 2022 first-rounder was immediately ruled out for the Steelers’ Thursday night game in the wake of his procedure, but no further updates to his status have been announced. While his availability on a game-by-game basis will thus be worth monitoring closely, the Steelers face the possibility of relying on Trubisky at the helm for a critical late season stretch. Pittsburgh now sits at 7-6 on the outside of the AFC’s wild-card picture.

Pickett’s Year 2 performance had not lived up to expectations prior to his injury, with the Steelers’ offense as a whole struggling to find consistent production. The decision to dismiss offensive coordinator Matt Canada – which came about from head coach Mike Tomlin after multiple discussions with owner Art Rooney II – seemed to spark a turnaround in a win over the Bengals. The Steelers topped 400 yards in that game, but their offense took a step back in the Cardinals and Patriots losses, leaving the team with a challenging path in the closing weeks of the campaign.

Trubisky – who began the 2022 season as the starter before being replaced by Pickett on a full-time basis – has 56 starts to his name, making him an experienced spot starter. The former Bears No. 2 pick has generally put up underwhelming numbers during his time in Pittsburgh, however, which will lead to questions about the team’s offensive capabilities down the stretch. As Pickett’s status remains in the air, the possibility looms that Trubisky will be counted on to steer the Steelers back into the playoff picture.

Steelers’ Kenny Pickett Undergoes Ankle Surgery

11:50am: Pickett’s tightrope procedure is complete, and Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports a two-to-four week absence should be expected. When speaking to the media, head coach Mike Tomlin declined to rule Pickett out for any games beyond the Steelers’ Week 14 matchup, however. His recovery process will be worth watching closely as it pertains to Pittsburgh’s playoff outlook.

9:33am: The ankle injury which Kenny Pickett suffered in Week 13 will force him to miss time, but it may not be season-ending. The Steelers’ starting quarterback will undergo surgery today, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.

Rapoport adds, crucially, that the Steelers will not place Pickett on injured reserve. Doing so would require at least a four-week absence and, for all intents and purposes, shut him down for the remainder of the campaign. Pickett will miss Pittsburgh’s upcoming Thursday night game at a minimum, Rapoport notes, so Mitch Trubisky will handle starting duties against the Patriots.

Pickett’s procedure will address the lingering issue which he has been dealing with throughout the season. Rapoport notes the 2022 first-rounder’s surgery will be aimed at repairing a high ankle injury, so it would come as no surprise if he were to miss more than one game as a result. The Steelers could still find themselves in contention for an AFC playoff spot in the closing weeks of the season, however, so Pickett’s recovery will be a major storyline.

Pittsburgh sits at 7-5 after yesterday’s upset loss against the Cardinals. Offensive production was an issue in that game, something which has been the case for much of the year. The Steelers’ lack of improvement on that side of the ball led to the firing of Matt Canada, and an uptick in efficiency appeared to be on the horizon based on the team’s first outing after the decision. Questions will be raised about their ability to consistently produce with Trubisky at the helm for the time being, though.

The veteran has been in Pittsburgh since 2022, the year in which he ceded the starting role to Pickett midseason. Pittsburgh has had to use Trubisky on a number of occasions since then, however, owing to Pickett’s injury troubles. The 25-year-old’s latest ailment will interrupt his first full season as a starter, one in which he has roughly duplicated his statistics from his rookie campaign. While that has limited the Steelers’ output in the passing game, they have leaned on their rushing attack in recent weeks in particular.

Pittsburgh rushed for 130 yards in Week 13, using the tandem of Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren in the backfield. That helped raise the team’s average to 115 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 14th in the NFL (compared to 30th in their passing output). A ground-heavy approach would come as little surprise with Trubisky now atop the depth chart as the Steelers look to continue their postseason push with a shorthanded offense.

AFC Injury Roundup: Steelers, Stevenson, Titans

This has been a typical rally year for the Steelers. Anytime things look less than ideal in a season for Pittsburgh, the team tends to pick things up and lead head coach Mike Tomlin to yet another winning season. They have done so this year as a bend-but-don’t-break defense has buoyed a struggling offense to a 7-5 record. That task will likely be getting a bit more difficult with the injury news concerning starting quarterback Kenny Pickett.

According to Brooke Pryor of ESPN, Pickett sustained a right ankle injury while trying to push for the endzone today and was forced to sit out the remainder of the game. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the injury is “not good” and that Pickett “will be out for an extended period.”

Pickett was replaced in today’s loss by backup quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Trubisky was able to score a touchdown in relief of Pickett but was unable to lead the team to victory after inheriting a tie game on the one-yard line. Tomlin made it clear that if Pickett is unable to go, which if Dulac is correct sounds like it will be the case, Trubisky will serve as the team’s starter.

With the Steelers facing a short week before hosting the Patriots, Pickett likely won’t have time to make a quick comeback, especially if the injury is “not good.” Expect Trubisky to lead the Pittsburgh offense this Thursday night.

Here are a few other injury updates from around the AFC, starting with another note from the Steel City:

  • Steelers starting safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who returned to the field today for the first time since October, was forced to leave the game for a period with a broken left hand, per Pryor. The break reportedly kept him from being able to grab the football, but he was able to cast and wrap the hand during the game’s two weather delays and finish the game with the injury. If the team feels it’s safe, Fitzpatrick may not need to miss any additional time as he can simply play with the cast, as he did today.
  • Speaking of the Thursday night turnaround, the Patriots are in danger of having to face the Steelers without starting running back Rhamondre Stevenson. Stevenson reportedly sprained his ankle today, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, and will undergo an MRI in order to determine how long he may be sidelined. Even if it’s a fairly minor sprain, the short week looms large for his availability. Backup rusher Ezekiel Elliott could find himself in a bigger role or even starting in Pittsburgh this coming week.
  • The Titans saw two players suffer scary knee injuries in today’s loss to the Colts. The two players who went down were star defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons and backup tight end Josh Whyle. While the injuries were enough to sideline each player for a bit, beat writer Paul Kuharsky confirms that neither injury is season-ending.

Latest On Steelers QB Kenny Pickett

Kenny Pickett exited yesterday’s loss to the Jaguars after suffering a rib injury. The Steelers quarterback didn’t return to the contest, and while he managed to avoid a serious injury, there’s uncertainty surrounding his status for Week 9.

With the Steelers facing a short week ahead of Thursday Night Football, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport says there isn’t a lot of optimism surrounding Pickett’s availability for that game. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin seems to be keeping the door open, however, saying his starting QB’s status will truly be a game-time decision.

“I think the door is definitively ajar for Kenny,” Tomlin said (via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor). “Probably a game-time-type decision based on the information that I’m holding here today, with no structural damage and so forth to his ribs.

“And so, we see how we’ll go through the week, his ability to throw his level of comfort, his ability of effectiveness, et cetera, and let that be our guide in terms of determining his availability.”

Tomlin also said the team will have a “functional” practice on Wednesday. That session will play a key role in determining whether Pickett will be under center the following night.

If Pickett can’t play against the Titans, the Steelers will turn to backup Mitchell Trubisky. The veteran has seen time in two games this Sunday, including this past weekend. In total, Trubisky has completed 18 of his 32 pass attempts for 156 yards, one touchdown, and a pair of interceptions. The former second-overall pick got five starts for the Steelers in 2022, with Pittsburgh going 2-3 in those contests.

QB Notes: Taylor, Cardinals, Bucs, Ridder

Tyrod Taylor left Sunday’s game with a rib injury and needed to be hospitalized. The Giants announced they are keeping their backup-turned-starter in the hospital overnight for observation on his ribcage ailment. Taylor has a history of rib trouble, of course, as just more than three years have passed since the rib injection that ended his brief run as the Chargers’ starter. The pregame shot before Week 2 of the 2020 season resulted in a punctured lung. During Taylor’s one-season stint as the Texans’ starter, he missed a third of the season due to a hamstring malady. The journeyman came back as a backup, with Houston giving Davis Mills a shot to close that season.

Taylor almost certainly will be welcomed back as the Giants’ starter when he is ready, as the team pivoted to nearly run-only blueprint with practice squad elevation Tommy DeVito under center. Daniel Jones is not expected to be back until Week 10, as he continues to battle a neck injury. The latest coming out of that situation points to the well-paid starter dealing with a disk issue and weakness in his nonthrowing shoulder.

Here is the latest from the QB ranks:

  • The Cardinals have joined the Giants in playing a backup this season, and while they have pronounced Kyler Murray fully healthy after his December 2022 ACL tear, the team will once again hold out the Pro Bowler. Jonathan Gannon announced postgame Joshua Dobbs will start in Week 9. Murray remains on Arizona’s reserve/PUP list, having been designated for return on Oct. 18. The Cardinals do not have to activate him until Nov. 8, giving them one more game to keep Murray off the roster. Early reports indicated an early-season return would be in play for Murray, and Michael Bidwill doubled down on that in April. But the organization has proceeded cautiously with the former No. 1 pick, who has also needed to learn a new offense. It will be interesting to see if the sinking Cardinals redeploy Murray as their starter immediately upon activating him.
  • Baker Mayfield did not escape Thursday’s loss in Buffalo unscathed, with ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler noting the free agent pickup is dealing with a knee contusion. Mayfield is planning to play through this injury, but it has caused him discomfort. The Buccaneers QB’s MRI did not reveal any structural damage, however.
  • While Kenny Pickett was initially expected to return to Sunday’s Steelers-Jaguars matchup following his rib injury, via ESPN.com’s Brooke Pryor, the Steelers ruled out their starter and kept Mitch Trubisky in the game. Pickett left the game before the half but was warming up to come back; instead, the team shut him down. Benched early during his first Steelers season, Trubisky became needed on multiple occasions due to Pickett’s two-concussion rookie year. It is not yet known how much time (if any) the 2022 first-rounder will miss as a result of his latest injury.
  • Desmond Ridder‘s midgame exit did not stem from performance issues, Arthur Smith said (via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). Ridder was evaluated for a concussion, but while he was cleared of a head injury, Smith said he “didn’t think Des was right” following the exit. The Falcons kept Taylor Heinicke in the game as a result. Heinicke logged one of the most active QB2 seasons in NFL history two years ago, replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1 and keeping the Washington reins the rest of the way. The Falcons gave the multiyear Washington starter a two-year, $14MM deal this offseason. Ridder has delivered an uneven season thus far, but the Falcons passed on chances to acquire a starter-caliber QB in order to keep him in place. With the team proclaiming Ridder the starter in March, it does not appear he is in danger of being pulled.