Mitchell Trubisky

Panthers QB Notes: Darnold, Mayfield, Rhule, Herbert, Stafford, Tepper, Watson

Although the Panthers are starting Baker Mayfield in Week 11, they want to see Sam Darnold in action this season. Steve Wilks said he would like to give Darnold some work, though the interim HC did not indicate that would be certain to happen this week against the Ravens. “I’m interested in winning the game. This is not pay $250 to get to play,” Wilks said, via The Athletic’s Joe Person (on Twitter).

Carolina used one of its injury activations to move Darnold onto its 53-man roster last week, but the former No. 3 overall pick did not see any action against the Falcons. P.J. Walker is out of the picture for the time being, after becoming the third Carolina QB this season to suffer a high ankle sprain. Mayfield will make his first start since sustaining his ankle injury in Week 9. Here is the latest from what has become one of the more complex QB situations in recent NFL history:

  • After playing hurt last season, Mayfield has not turned it around. On the radar for a potential franchise-QB deal in 2021, Mayfield is on track for free agency for the first time. The market for the former No. 1 overall pick may check in at $5-$7MM on a prove-it deal, David Newton of ESPN.com notes. Mayfield’s 17.7 QBR ranks last in the NFL.
  • This situation has been in flux since Cam Newton‘s 2019 foot injury. Prior to the team making the Newton-for-Teddy Bridgewater change, GM Marty Hurney and most of the Panthers’ scouts were high on Justin Herbert. But Matt Rhule did not view 2020 as the window to draft a quarterback, with Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com indicating in an expansive piece the team saw a jump from No. 7 overall to No. 4 — ahead of the QB-seeking Dolphins and Chargers — as too costly. While then-Giants GM Dave Gettleman was not keen on trading down, going most of his GM career without ever doing so, the Panthers not making a push for Herbert has led to QB chaos.
  • After the Panthers determined Bridgewater — a preference of former OC Joe Brady — would be a one-and-done in Charlotte, they made a big offer for Matthew Stafford. Negotiations between new Panthers GM Scott Fitterer and Lions rookie GM Brad Holmes at the 2021 Senior Bowl led to Panthers brass leaving Mobile believing they were set to acquire Stafford, Fowler notes. It is interesting to learn how far the GMs progressed in talks, because Stafford made it known soon after he did not want to play for the Panthers. The Rams then came in late with their two-first-rounder offer, forcing the Panthers and others to look elsewhere.
  • Rhule then pushed hard for Darnold, Fowler adds, after Panthers staffers went through film sessions evaluating he, Carson Wentz and Drew Lock. The Panthers sent the Jets second-, fourth- and sixth-round picks for the former No. 3 overall pick and picked up his guaranteed $18.9MM fifth-year option. Owner David Tepper begrudgingly picked up the option but became irked by the 2023 cost hanging over the franchise, per Fowler. Tepper is believed to have held up this year’s Mayfield trade talks in order to move the Browns to pick up more money on his option salary. The delay was connected to the Panthers already having Darnold’s fifth-year option to pay.
  • Tepper’s main prize during this multiyear QB odyssey, Deshaun Watson, was leery of the Panthers’ staff uncertainty, Fowler adds. All things being equal between the four finalists — Atlanta, Carolina, Cleveland, New Orleans — the Panthers were not believed to be Watson’s first choice. The Falcons were viewed as the team that would have landed Watson if the Browns did not make that unprecedented $230MM guarantee offer.
  • Fitterer offered support for a Mitch Trubisky signing this offseason, according to Fowler, who adds the team never engaged in extended talks with Jimmy Garoppolo‘s camp. While Garoppolo said the Panthers were in the mix, the team was believed to be leery of his injury history. Trubisky is in Year 1 of a two-year, $14.3MM deal. While Trubisky may well be available again in 2023, the Panthers — having added six draft picks from the Christian McCaffrey and Robbie Anderson trades — will be connected to this year’s crop of QB prospects.

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.

AFC North Notes: Steelers, Pocic, Ravens

The Steelers are trending in the wrong direction to start the 2022 season, one which came with a number of questions on offense. After last week’s 38-3 loss to the Bills, though, no shake-up on the sidelines is expected.

When speaking to the media after the loss, head coach Mike Tomlin stated that he has been “highly involved” in the team’s offense, a unit led by Matt Canada. The latter has been the subject of plenty of scrutiny dating back to last season, his first as offensive coordinator. As Tomlin stressed, however, he will not make “changes for the sake of changes” with respect to the maligned play-caller (Twitter links via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor).

Through five weeks, Pittsburgh ranks 30th in the NFL in both yards (308.6) and points (15.4) per game. The underwhelming play of veteran signing Mitch Trubisky led to first-round rookie Kenny Pickett being installed as the starting quarterback, something which certainly didn’t produce the desired results in Week 5. He and the team face another tough matchup this Sunday against the Buccaneers.

Here are some other notes from around the AFC North:

  • Beside Tomlin, another high-profile coach who has had a hand in offensive game-planning has been Brian Flores. The former Dolphins head coach sat in on that unit’s meetings prior to the Steelers’ game against the Patriots, per SI’s Albert Breer. More generally, Breer notes, Flores has been operating as an “over-the-top assistant” with the offense, in addition to his primary responsibilities as LBs coach. The expanded role comes as the team “hopes” Flores is able to land another HC opportunity down the road.
  • As for the QB position, a deal could be coming soon. Mark Kaboly of The Athletic points out that, with Pickett having assumed No. 1 duties, it would make sense for Pittsburgh to move on from one of Trubisky or Mason Rudolph at the upcoming trade deadline (subscription required). The latter is a pending free agent and was the subject of trade talks this offseason, though the Steelers held on to him. Trubisky, meanwhile, is under contract for 2023 with a cap hit of $10.625MM.
  • The Browns have the league’s top rushing attack, something owing in no small part to the play of their offensive line. That includes center Ethan Pocic, who signed in Cleveland this offseason after five years in Seattle. When weighing the options presented by a modest free agent market, the 27-year-old chose to work with Browns o-line coach Bill Callahan. “As soon as I wasn’t going to get a big contract, a long-term contract, everything was pretty low, league minimum for the most part, I just went to the team with the best coaches and the best players,” he said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. After the season-ending injury suffered by Nick Harris, Pocic assumed a starter’s role and currently ranks as PFF’s fourth-highest rated center.
  • The first few weeks of the season have offered a glimpse into a new element in the Ravens’ offense. The team has implemented more looks from under center for QB Lamar Jackson, as detailed by the Washington Posts’ Jason La Canfora. Jackson operated almost exclusively from the shotgun prior to entering the NFL; Baltimore deployed plenty of pistol formations during the first four years of his career. 2022, however, has seen a dramatic uptick in his under-center looks, especially in the passing game – part of OC Greg Roman‘s attempts to diversify the team’s run-heavy offense. Overall, that has so far translated to just 213 passing yards per contest (23rd in the league), so the degree to which the team remains committed to this new element will be interesting to monitor as the season progresses.

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 NFL.com 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.

Steelers Planning To Keep Mitch Trubisky As Starter Throughout Season?

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 Pickett a 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.

Steelers Sticking With Mitch Trubisky As Starting QB

Ben Roethlisberger began his starter run in Week 3 of the 2004 season. A Tommy Maddox injury led to that seminal switch. Eighteen years later, the Steelers’ new first-round quarterback prospect looks like he will need to wait longer.

Although some pro-Kenny Pickett chants broke out at Sunday’s Patriots-Steelers game, the No. 20 overall pick will not replace Mitch Trubisky. While acknowledging Trubisky can be more aggressive with downfield throws, Tomlin said he is exercising patience with his quarterback (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Brooke Pryor) and offensive coordinator.

I’m not happy with much of anything when we just lost a game, but I’m also experienced enough to see the big picture, that we are still very much in development,” Tomlin said, via The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly, when asked about OC Matt Canada‘s play-calling. “I’m going to exercise appropriate patience and continue to teach and ask the guys to continue to learn in an effort to continue to push this train down the track and get better.”

This does not represent a logical week to make a switch. Following Thursday’s Browns matchup, however, a transition window opens. Trubisky’s play will dictate how much longer he has as Pittsburgh’s starter, though Pickett’s development may be a bigger factor at this point.

Pittsburgh’s offense struggled during Roethlisberger’s final season, ranking 25th in DVOA. It has offered two low-wattage performances this year. Trubisky, who has attempted 15 throws at or behind the line of scrimmage this season, enters Week 3 averaging 5.1 yards per attempt. Excluding Dak Prescott‘s one-game sample, that mark ranks as the league’s worst. Neither Chase Claypool nor second-round pick George Pickens have surpassed 30 receiving yards in a game this season.

Trubisky is not expected to keep his job throughout this season, but his two sub-200-yard performances magnify Pickett’s development. The Steelers have a Week 9 bye. Although Trey Lance, Jordan Love and Patrick Mahomes are exceptions, with their teams planning longer NFL onramps, every first-round quarterback chosen from 2017-21 had been elevated into the starting lineup by Week 10. (That list expands to 2012 if Paxton Lynch and Johnny Manziel are excluded.) With it being more norm than exception for QBs to begin their starter runs by October of their rookie year — Trubisky took over in Chicago in October 2017 — how long Pickett waits looks like it will be rather important to the Steelers’ contention prospects.

The Steelers promoted Canada from quarterbacks coach to OC last year. He replaced Randy Fichtner. Pittsburgh ranks 30th in total offense, and Najee Harris is averaging 2.9 yards per carry. Even Trubisky called on Canada to be more aggressive, though the second-year OC has not yet worked with an above-average quarterback or much offensive line talent. The offense’s performance Thursday in Cleveland certainly will be a hot-button topic.

Call concepts to get receivers there,” Trubisky said, via Pryor, on the subject of downfield passing. “When the coverage dictates that, get them the ball within that. … We like our outside matchups. We’ve got really good receivers. We’ve got really good talent across the board. We’d like to attack all areas of the field and get the ball to our playmakers. So, we could do a little bit better at everything, for sure.”

Tomlin: Mitchell Trubisky Is Steelers’ Starting QB

Although the Steelers made a change to their depth chart Tuesday morning, moving Kenny Pickett from the third-string spot to No. 2, Mitchell Trubisky‘s name remained with the starters. That will be the case Sunday against the Bengals.

Mike Tomlin confirmed Tuesday morning the long-expected path the Steelers will take to open the season: Trubisky is the starting quarterback. The former No. 2 overall pick had been viewed as the starter since signing a two-year, $14MM deal in March. This is all but certain to change at some point this season, with Pickett being groomed to take over. For now, however, the Pitt product will learn from the sidelines.

Chosen 20th overall, Pickett played well in the preseason and is now in position to dress as Pittsburgh’s gameday backup. Tomlin said he has been “really pleased” with Pickett’s development thus far. This will be the first time since 2007 that no rookie QB will have started in Week 1 (h/t ESPN.com’s Field Yates, on Twitter). Pickett and third-round Falcons pick Desmond Ridder almost certainly will make starts this season, but Atlanta (Marcus Mariota) and Pittsburgh will go with vets to open the campaign.

After Trubisky’s Bears tenure underwhelmed, putting it mildly, he rebuilt his stock somewhat by backing up Josh Allen in Buffalo. Trubisky, 28, has started three openers — 2018-20 — previously and was Chicago’s full-time starter early in his 2017 rookie year. The North Carolina product replaced Mike Glennon five games into his rookie season, but after his Bears tenure began to go south in 2019, the Matt NagyRyan Pace regime traded for Nick Foles. The former Super Bowl MVP replaced Trubisky early in the 2020 slate, though the younger passer regained his starting job and helped the Bears to that year’s playoff bracket.

Trubisky has made 50 career starts. He is a career 64.1% passer (6.7 yards per attempt) who is 29-21 as a starter. The Giants were connected to the ex-Brian Daboll Buffalo pupil as well, but the Steelers landed him to be Ben Roethlisberger‘s immediate successor. Pickett looms, however. Roethlisberger took over as a starter in Week 3 of his rookie year, though a Tommy Maddox injury prompted that change. Save for 2019, when Roethlisberger’s elbow injury led to both Rudolph and Devlin Hodges making starts, the Steelers did not need to worry about their QB depth chart for the next 18 seasons

The Steelers will only dress Trubisky and Pickett in Week 1, Tomlin said, noting a clerical error had Rudolph above the rookie on Monday’s depth chart. Rudolph, who has been with the Steelers since 2018, emerged in late-summer trade rumors. The Steelers passed on moving the former third-round pick, but Rudolph will not be in uniform on gamedays — as long as Trubisky and Pickett are healthy.

Latest On Steelers’ QB Competition

SEPTEMBER 6: The Steelers look to have issued a correction. A day after releasing a depth chart that placed Rudolph as their backup, the Steelers now have Pickett in that spot (Twitter link). Trubisky-Pickett-Rudolph was believed to be the quarterback hierarchy for Pittsburgh, which discussed Rudolph in trades before cutting their roster to 53 last week. This change, which puts the Pitt product in position to dress on gamedays, creates a clearer path for the long-expected Trubisky-to-Pickett bridge.

SEPTEMBER 5: After the final round of roster cuts had been made last week, the Steelers still had the same three quarterbacks at the top of the depth chart as they have since the draft. Their rankings in the pecking order were thought to be known, though nothing became official until today. 

Pittsburgh’s Week 1 depth chart lists Mitch Trubisky as the starter, as noted by ESPN’s Brooke Pryor. That was the expected decision throughout the offseason; the veteran signed a two-year, $14MM deal in free agency after one season as a backup in Buffalo. That, of course, was preceded by his four-year stint as the Bears’ starter which included a pair of playoff appearances but not enough production to warrant his draft status as a No. 2 pick or a new deal from Chicago.

Things became more complicated at the draft when the Steelers became the only team to use a first-round pick on a signal-caller, selecting Kenny Pickett 20th overall. Widely seen as the most NFL-ready prospect available, the move came as no surprise, and expectations have persisted that the Pitt alum will see action at some point. That became especially true when Trubisky struggled in training camp, though he — like Pickett and fourth-year returnee Mason Rudolph — acquitted himself relatively well during the preseason.

As was the case in June, Rudolph is listed as the backup ahead of Pickett. The veteran was thought to be a cut, or perhaps more likely, trade candidate in the past few weeks, but the team elected to keep him. Rudolph has put up underwhelming numbers in his 17 career appearances, leading to speculation about whether or not he would be active on gamedays.

As Mark Kaboly of The Athletic writes (subscription required), Trubisky (who was also elected a team captain) is likely to get a multi-game run with the first team to start the season. While he also “guarantees” that Pickett will see the field in 2022, he adds that Trubisky will receive a long leash before being replaced.

Head coach Mike Tomlin is expected to confirm the news tomorrow, but the Steelers appear set to move forward into a season once again featuring playoff expectations without a surprise at the game’s most important position.