Kenny Pickett

QB Notes: Jets, Pickett, Chiefs, Carr

Zach Wilson will start for the Jets in Week 16, Robert Saleh confirmed. This was the expected Jets path, given the updates on Mike White‘s injured ribs. The short-week assignment made White’s road back tougher, and the team’s preferred starter will have a mini-bye to recover ahead of a possible Week 17 return. White attempted to receive clearance from as many as 10 independent doctors last week, and Jeremy Fowler of adds he is still consulting with doctors. But the Jets are proceeding cautiously with the fifth-year passer. Saleh does not believe the injury White suffered against the Bills is a season-ending malady, Brian Costello of the New York Post tweets. White is due for unrestricted free agency in March.

Here is the latest from the quarterback landscape:

  • After Mitch Trubisky played in most of the past two Steelers games, the team is ready to move its rookie back into action. Mike Tomlin expects Kenny Pickett to start Saturday against the Raiders, Teresa Varley of tweets. Pickett has now sustained two concussions this season.
  • The conditional 2024 pick the Browns obtained from the Panthers for Baker Mayfield will be a fifth-round choice, David Newton of notes (via Twitter). Mayfield needed to hit the 70% snap barrier with the Panthers. The new Rams starter did not come especially close to that, being demoted and then waived.
  • Derek Carr‘s recent Raiders extension — a three-year, $121.4MM pact — gives the team a three-day window following Super Bowl LVII to jettison the quarterback and save $40.5MM. Carr trade rumors are nothing new; he loomed as a trade candidate for much of the Jon Gruden period. But a GM informed the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora he does expect Carr to finally be dealt. Despite the Raiders’ struggles, Carr ranks 10th in QBR. The team’s blockbuster trade for Carr college teammate Davante Adams also might make a trade a tough sell, and the prospect of the Raiders needing to find an upgrade — an impediment to a trade during Gruden’s stay — also makes this a risky path. In his ninth season and having made 141 career starts, Carr is the longest-tenured starting quarterback in Raiders history.
  • Making a push for a second MVP, Patrick Mahomes offered a bit of insight on how he ended up in Kansas City. The sixth-year Chiefs passer said, after a productive meeting with Andy Reid ahead of the 2017 draft, he spoke with multiple teams who indicated they would draft him. During an appearance on Travis and Jason Kelce‘s New Heights podcast (video link), Mahomes said he informed the Chiefs they would need to trade up to at least No. 11 to land him. Mahomes said he did not know the extent of the Saints’ interest at the time — New Orleans held the No. 11 pick — but the Cardinals’ affinity for then-Texas Tech prospect has been known for some time. Arizona picked 13th that year. The Browns also traded their No. 12 pick to the Texans, who chose Deshaun Watson. The Chiefs traded their No. 27 choice, a 2017 third-rounder and their 2018 first to the Bills to secure the No. 10 draft slot. That ended up being a franchise-changing decision.

Steelers To Start Mitch Trubisky In Week 15

Kenny Pickett exited the Steelers’ loss to the Ravens last week with a concussion, and he has not recovered in time to play tomorrow. As a result, he has been ruled out, and Pittsburgh will once again turn to Mitch Trubisky as its starting quarterback, per a team announcement.

The veteran finished the Week 14 contest after Pickett suffered his second concussion this year. The team’s offense generated notable yardage with Trubisky at the helm, but three interceptions sealed their fate and represented the latest example of why Pickett was named the No. 1 in Week 5. Trubisky split first-team reps with third-stringer Mason Rudolph this week, inviting speculation that the latter could see his first action of the year; instead, he will dress as the backup. However, Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of say that Trubisky could be on a short leash and, if he should struggle, he may pulled in favor of Rudolph.

Trubisky joined the Steelers on a two-year deal this offseason, one in which the team needed to make both short- and long-term moves aimed at finding a Ben Roethlisberger successor. The 28-year-old has made six total appearances (including four starts) in 2022, putting up numbers essentially in line with his career averages with respect to completion percentage (63.3) and yards-per-attempt-average (6.8). He has thrown for 1,073 yards and, after last week’s contest, has more interceptions (five) than touchdowns (four).

Despite being under contract for 2023, then, speculation has increased that the Steelers will move on from him in the coming offseason. A trade sending him elsewhere would, in a best-case scenario, likely represent another opportunity to compete for a starting role during training camp with a younger signal-caller. Rudolph, meanwhile, is a pending free agent, so the team’s actions with respect to Trubisky could substantially affect his standing with the organization.

Pittsburgh faces a long road to a playoff berth at 5-8, especially compared to their Week 15 opponent, the Panthers, despite Carolina boasting the same record. The Steelers have been underwhelming in almost every category on offense this season – a reflection of both of their signal-callers – but their commitment to a healthy Pickett both now and in the future could add significance for Trubisky on Sunday and for any further games in which he receives the nod.

Steelers QB Kenny Pickett Suffers Second Concussion

For the second time this season, the Steelers lost their rookie quarterback midway through a game. Kenny Pickett exited Pittsburgh’s loss to the Ravens during the first quarter and was quickly ruled out by the team while in concussion protocol.

The same situation took place in mid-October, when the first-rounder was knocked out of the Steelers’ Week 6 win over the Buccaneers. That, in turn, came not long after the team had officially committed to him as their starting signal-caller moving forward, after a brief and underwhelming start to the campaign by free agent signing Mitch Trubisky.

It was once again the veteran who took over for the remainder of this game. Trubisky helped the Steelers move the ball throughout the contest, but his performance was crippled by three interceptions made deep in Ravens territory. The former No. 2 overall pick finished the game completing 22 of 30 passes for 276 yards and one touchdown in addition to the trio of picks.

Trubisky has one season remaining on the deal he signed this offseason, but the timing of Pickett’s ascension to the starting role has led to a widespread expectation that the one-time Pro Bowler will find himself elsewhere in 2023. The same has reportedly been predicted in the case of the team’s third-string QB, Mason Rudolph. The latter was not a serious contender for the No. 1 spot during Pittsburgh’s summer competition, and has yet to see the field in 2022.

Today’s loss drops the Steelers to 5-8, and stops the momentum the team had built up by winning three of four games after their bye week entering the contest. Attention will turn to Pickett’s recovery from a second major head injury suffered in less than one season, and Trubisky’s performance in Week 15 against the Panthers if he is required to start.

Steelers Likely To Change Backup QBs This Offseason?

The Steelers have their quarterback of both the present and the future in first-round rookie Kenny Pickett, but their depth chart at the position could see plenty of turnover soon. Backup Mitch Trubisky and third-stringer Mason Rudolph are in a position to look elsewhere this offseason.

Detailing both veterans’ situations, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that it is “a safe bet to assume” Rudolph and Trubisky will not be back in 2023. The former is a pending free agent, so he will have the option of signing with a team which will give him at least a No. 2 role. That appeared unlikely to be available this year in Pittsburgh, given the addition of Trubisky in free agency and the subsequent decision to draft Pickett.

Those moves made Rudolph a logical trade candidate, but his experience and the relative uncertainty surrounding the other two signal-callers led the Steelers to keep him in the fold. The 27-year-old has made 10 career starts, but only two of those have come since 2019. That will no doubt lead to a modest free agent market, but with the prospect of starting in Pittsburgh no longer in play, a move elsewhere would come as little surprise. Dulac does add, however, that the Steelers would “probably” welcome the Oklahoma State product back if he were interested in re-signing.

Trubisky, meanwhile, has one year remaining on the $14MM deal he signed this offseason. That contract put him in line to operate as a starter after a one-year No. 2 stint with the Bills last season, but the addition of Pickett one month later – which, as Dulac mentions, the Steelers did not inform Trubisky of prior to doing so – led to immediate predictions that he would be a temporary starter at best. The former Bear was replaced by Pickett midway through Week 4, and the Steelers have committed to him as the starter moving forward.

Dulac therefore predicts a mutual parting of ways via a trade this offseason which will allow Trubisky, 28, to at least compete for a No. 1 gig with what would be his fourth career franchise. His 2023 cap hit of $10.6MM would make him an inexpensive bridge starter, or an experienced backup for any number of teams.

Pittsburgh will move forward with Pickett at the helm into 2023, but a departure from both Rudolph and Trubisky would leave the team in need of multiple additions. On that point, Dulac names Joshua Dobbs as a name to watch, as the 2017 Steelers fourth-rounder has bounced around to the Jaguars and Browns but has still yet to make an appearance for a team other than Pittsburgh. In any case, the team’s plans at the position will be worth monitoring when they turn their attention to rebounding from a disappointing 2022 campaign.

AFC North Notes: Steelers, Jones, Ravens

A bit of a controversy developed in Pittsburgh this week. Mitch Trubisky and Diontae Johnson engaged in a shouting match during halftime of the Steelers-Jets contest, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes, adding that this provided the impetus for Trubisky’s benching. Mike Tomlin did not confirm or deny a shouting match between the quarterback and the team’s highest-paid wideout ensued, though Johnson essentially confirmed a football-related argument took place. But The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly adds the dispute was not the deciding factor in the 16th-year coach moving to Kenny Pickett for the second half of that game. Johnson wanted more targets from Trubisky in that Week 4 game, Dulac adds, leading to the team’s original starter standing up to the fourth-year receiver.

Tomlin benched Trubisky primarily due to his underwhelming performance during the season’s first month, with Kaboly adding he had already decided to go with Pickett. Trubisky sat throughout Week 5 but played well when reinserted into Pittsburgh’s lineup following Pickett’s Week 6 concussion. Despite a bounce-back relief effort against the Buccaneers, Trubisky is set to return to the bench. Pickett cleared concussion protocol Friday and is in line to start against the Dolphins, Tomlin said. Levi Wallace and Pat Freiermuth also cleared the protocol, arming the Steelers with key starters.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • It looks likely Deion Jones will make his Browns debut Sunday. The team held off from activating the recently acquired linebacker from IR last week, giving the longtime Falcons starter more time after designating him for return. Jones is progressing fast in Joe Woods‘ defense, per linebackers coach Jason Tarver (via’s Mary Kay Cabot, on Twitter). Tarver said Jones could be in position to wear the green dot, signifying headset communication, in the near future. The Browns, who lost Anthony Walker to a season-ending injury in Week 3, acquired the six-year Atlanta cog for merely a 2024 pick swap.
  • Cleveland will be without multiple Pro Bowlers against Baltimore, however. The Browns ruled out Wyatt Teller and Denzel Ward for their divisional matchup. Teller is battling a calf strain, while Ward will miss a second consecutive game due to a concussion he suffered in Week 5.
  • Ben Powers has operated as the Ravens‘ left guard this season, winning a training camp competition. While 2021 third-round pick Ben Cleveland was nominally in that battle, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic notes the younger Ben in this matchup did not mount a serious push at winning the job opposite Kevin Zeitler. The Ravens have been frustrated with Cleveland’s inability to practice consistently due to injuries, Zrebiec adds. Cleveland missed the first week of training camp due to a failed conditioning test and has missed the past two games due to a foot injury. The Ravens did see Cleveland return to practice Thursday. Cleveland, who started four games last season, has not played an offensive snap this year. Baltimore was holding a three-player competition for the job Powers won. The third entrant, Tyre Phillips, is now with the Giants.

Steelers QB Kenny Pickett Suffers Concussion

Kenny Pickett‘s second career start was headed in a much better direction than his first one before he had to exit the game. The rookie quarterback took a hard hit in the third quarter of the Steelers’ game against the Buccaneers, and suffered a concussion. The team quickly announced that he was out for the remainder of the game. 

The first-rounder replaced veteran Mitch Trubisky in the second half of Pittsburgh’s Week 4 game. To little surprise, that was followed by head coach Mike Tomlin naming him the starter moving forward. Pickett’s first full game ended in a 38-3 loss to the Bills, in which he threw for 327 yards and an interception.

That, coupled with a plethora of major injuries in the secondary, led to tempered expectations at best for today’s showing. However, Pickett went 11-of-18 for 67 yards and his first career touchdown pass prior to the injury. That gave the team a legitimate chance to pull of the upset at the time Trubisky came into the game. His benching had come after underwhelming performances, though, so his level of play came as a surprise as well.

Trubisky completed 9 of 12 passes, totaling 144 yards and one touchdown in relief. The score came on what ended up being the game-sealing drive, as the Steelers completed the 20-18 upset. That ended Pittsburgh’s losing streak, and could ease concerns about the former No. 2 overall pick resuming the starter’s role if doing so becomes necessary.

Pickett’s injury comes in the wake of new concussion protocols being agreed to and implemented. While much of the focus has been placed on erring on the side of caution with respect to removing players from games on the suspicion of head trauma, recovery timelines will not doubt be watched closely as well. Pickett’s status will be worth monitoring in the build-up to Pittsburgh’s game next Sunday against Miami.

Matt Rhule Latest: QBs, Giants, Brady

Despite authorizing a seven-year contract to lure Matt Rhule from Baylor, Panthers owner David Tepper cut the cord this week. Tepper did so less than three years after he outmuscled the Giants for Rhule, who was believed to have preferred the Giants job to the one he ended up taking. After the Giants sent a private plane for Rhule’s January 2020 interview, Tepper upped his offer from six years to seven, according to Joe Person of The Athletic (subscription required). The seven-year, $62MM contract ensured Rhule never boarded that plane.

Although Rhule reached out to the Giants to see if they would match, John Mara viewed such a contract as exorbitant for a coach without much NFL experience. Still, the Giants preferred Rhule to Joe Judge that year. The Panthers, who paid Baylor a $6MM buyout fee in 2020, will not be forced to pay out Rhule’s guaranteed $40MM-plus remaining. Carolina is on the hook for Rhule’s 2022 salary, but the remaining cash will be offset by the coach’s next college gig — whenever that comes to pass. Here is the latest from the Rhule dismissal:

  • The Panthers made a quarterback splash in 2020, giving Teddy Bridgewater a three-year deal worth $63MM. Then-OC Joe Brady lobbied for Bridgewater, whom the young coach worked with during his time with the Saints, Person adds. Bridgewater was by far the best QB option during the Rhule period, with the Sam Darnold, Cam Newton 2.0 and Baker Mayfield (so far) stays producing bottom-end work.
  • Another option for Carolina would have been Justin Herbert, but Person notes the team did not want to give up the draft capital necessary to trade up for the Oregon prospect. The Panthers held the No. 7 overall pick in 2020; Herbert went sixth to the Chargers. Carolina, however, may have needed to trade up to No. 3 (Detroit) to secure Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa real estate. The Dolphins and Bolts likely were not open to moving down, and at that point, Dave Gettleman had never traded down during his time as the Giants or Panthers’ GM. The Panthers liked Herbert as a prospect, but they ended up taking Derrick Brown at 7. That certainly qualifies as a notable “what if?” for the organization.
  • After the Panthers passed on Justin Fields and Mac Jones in 2021, they were linked to ex-Rhule Temple recruit Kenny Pickett at No. 6 this year. But Carolina did not view Pickett as worthy of such a high pick, Person adds. GM Scott Fitterer openly said before the draft the team would have the tackle prospects rated above all the QB talents in this year’s draft. Other teams tended to agree, with the Steelers nabbing Pickett at No. 20 — without trading up — and no other QBs coming off the board until Round 3.
  • Rhule’s decision to fire Brady after going on vacation during Carolina’s 2021 bye week did not sit well with some players, per Person. Rhule encouraged players to get away that week and kept his travel plans, but Brady and QBs coach Sean Ryan stayed in town to work with the recently re-signed Newton as he learned the Panthers’ new offense. Brady’s firing leaked on the Sunday during Carolina’s bye week, when Rhule returned to Charlotte. Brady is now the Bills’ quarterbacks coach.
  • Jimmy Garoppolo said the Panthers were one of the teams that showed interest in trading for him. “Things were advancing with a couple different teams,” Garoppolo said, via the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch. “They were at the top of the list, I would say. One of the top couple, but I’m glad the way things worked out and I’m here.” The Panthers were among the teams skittish about Garoppolo’s salary, leading to his 49ers restructure, and his injury history was an issue with some Carolina staffers. Carolina acquired Mayfield in early July, but, adding to this franchise’s recent quarterback complications, Tepper’s desire to not overpay led to a delay that went against Rhule and Fitterer’s wishes.

Steelers To Stick With Kenny Pickett

OCTOBER 4: In a press conference today, Tomlin confirmed that Pickett will start against the Bills (video link). When making the announcement, he reiterated that Trubisky’s level of play is only partially responsible for the change. The veteran will operate as the backup, and Tomlin revealed that he was considering starting Trubisky this week, given his time in Buffalo last year, ESPN’s Brooke Pryor tweets.

OCTOBER 3: The Steelers began the Kenny Pickett era before they were planning to, bumping the first-round pick into their lineup in Week 4. Unsurprisingly, the rookie will keep their QB1 reins going forward.

Pickett is expected to stick as Pittsburgh’s starter over Mitch Trubisky, Ian Rapoport of tweets. Pickett replaced Trubisky in the second half of the Steelers’ Week 4 loss to the Jets. While the No. 20 overall pick threw three interceptions — the last on a final-play heave — he provided a bit of a spark for the team’s offense.

Teams generally do not turn back once a first-round quarterback enters the lineup, so it would have been more surprising if the Steelers restored Trubisky as their starter. The Steelers have been operating under the assumption Pickett will take over, Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post notes.

A former No. 2 overall pick, Trubisky struggled during his short time as Pittsburgh’s QB. The ex-Bears starter and Bills backup averaged an NFL-low 5.6 yards per attempt. Saying as much postgame, Pickett was more willing to make downfield throws. The 1-3 Steelers’ season now centers around the forthcoming extended look at Ben Roethlisberger heir apparent.

Mike Tomlin told Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer he wanted Trubisky to start throughout the season, providing a true redshirt year for Pickett. While that was a borderline-stunning report, given how Trubisky had fared through two games, a subsequent offering indicated the Steelers hoped to give Pickett until at least midseason to develop from the sideline. The Steelers are set for a grueling Bills-Buccaneers-Dolphins-Eagles stretch — ahead of a Week 9 bye — so Pickett will certainly be tested in his first batch of starts.

Pickett completed 10 of 13 passes for 120 yards and those three INTs against the Jets. After playing five seasons at Pitt (four as a starter), the 24-year-old rookie profiled as a player who would not require a full-season NFL redshirt. He performed well during the preseason, but the Steelers still exercised caution here. Signed to a two-year deal worth $14MM (plus incentives), Trubisky offered a shaky bridge that left the Steelers little choice but to try Pickett early.

Trubisky’s contract called for nearly $13MM in incentives, but that tiered package did not begin until the sixth-year quarterback hit the 60% start threshold. If Pickett stays healthy, Monday’s news would make Trubisky collecting any incentive dough unlikely. The Steelers can release Trubisky, who also received interest from the Giants this offseason, and incur less than $3MM in dead money next year. Mason Rudolph‘s contract expires at season’s end, leaving the team with work to do on its QB2 front in the months ahead. That will be a back-burner issue for the franchise, however, with Pickett’s development now front and center.

Steelers Replace Mitch Trubisky With Kenny Pickett At QB

Given the team’s offensive struggles to begin the season, questions have been asked with increasing volume regarding the Steelers’ quarterback situation. At halftime during today’s game against the Jets, the Steelers benched starter Mitch Trubisky in favor of first-round rookie Kenny Pickett

Trubisky signed a two-year deal this offseason to operate (at least temporarily) as Pittsburgh’s starter to begin the post-Ben Roethlisberger era. In the build-up to the draft, however, it was widely known that a long-term move was coming. Pittsburgh made the Heisman finalist the only first-round quarterback of his class, leading to questions about when he would see the field.

Those were intensified when Trubisky struggled out of the gate. Despite an average of just 5.5 yards per attempt, and only a pair of touchdown passes through the first three games, it was reported that the team was intending on keeping him as the No. 1 throughout the 2022 season. It came as little surprise, then, that the former Bears first-rounder got the nod again for today’s contest.

By halftime, however, Trubisky had managed 84 scoreless yards and an interception, and the Steelers trailed 10-6. Going against the perceived notion that Pickett wouldn’t take over until at least midseason, head coach Mike Tomlin decided to make the swap. The effect on the team’s offense turned out to be substantial.

The unit scored a pair of touchdowns in the second half, and got the lead until the game’s final seconds. Overall, Pickett finished 10-of-13 passing, with 120 yards through the air and a pair of rushing touchdowns. Each of his other three passes were, however, intercepted, contributing greatly to the end result, a 24-20 loss.

After the game, Tomlin said, “I thought we needed a spark… We didn’t do much in the first half, not enough offensively, and I thought he could provide a spark for us” (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of NFL Network).

He added that no decision has been made regarding Pittsburgh’s Week 5 starter. Given the performance of each of the team’s signal-callers, the way the team ultimately leans will be worth watching in the coming days.

Steelers Aiming To Delay QB Change Until Midseason?

Although the Steelers had their mini-bye window to consider an early Mitch Trubisky-to-Kenny Pickett transition, 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.

The patience here can be attributed to Pickett. Early reports have the franchise seeking a long runway for its Ben Roethlisberger heir apparent, and Trubisky operated as Pittsburgh’s first-stringer throughout the offseason. Even though Trubisky was signed to a two-year, $14MM deal five weeks before the Steelers made Pickett the 20th overall pick, the team added the veteran to give its then-TBD rookie QB sufficient time to develop, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes.

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.