Second-year Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett will miss Thursday night’s game against the New England Patriots after undergoing surgery on an ailing ankle. The 2022 first-round pick is expected to miss several weeks of action as Pittsburgh attempts to remain viable in the AFC Playoff picture.
When on the field this season, the Pitt product has struggled to maintain even average quarterback play within the confines of one of the worst offenses in the NFL. Pickett, 25, has thrown a mere six touchdowns with four interceptions in 12 starts while averaging a laughable 172.5 yards per game.
Despite this, it seems as if the Steelers’ brass is sold on Pickett and doesn’t plan on moving on from the youngster this coming offseason.
According to ESPN’s Brooke Pryor, the Steelers’ brass has given no indication that they plan on moving on from Pickett in the near future. All of this comes with Pittsburgh hoping that veteran Mitchell Trubisky can light a fire under an offense that has scored 10 points or less five times this season.
Kenny Pickett’s injury is a litmus test for the Pittsburgh Steelers
With Pickett under center thus far this season, Pittsburgh’s offense ranks 28th in the NFL in scoring at 16.0 points per game. It also ranks 28th in the league in passing. For his part, Pickett is tied with Zach Wilson for the fewest interceptions (six) among regular starting quarterbacks in the NFL.
For the sake of comparison, Wilson has been benched by the New York Jets over the past two games before being reinserted into the lineup for Week 14.
What if Pittsburgh’s offense picks up with Trubisky taking over for Pickett? It’s not like the former Chicago Bears first-round pick will be mistaken for anything more than a stopgap quarterback. If he succeeds where Pickett failed, it will lead to major questions for general manager Omar Khan. It will also tell us a story that recently-fired offensive coordinator Matt Canada was not the only problem on that side of the ball.
Pittsburgh Steelers will have offseason quarterback options
Mike Tomlin is in it to win it. He’s not looking at leading a rebuild in Pittsburgh. The team boasts a championship-level defense headed by one of the best all-around players in the game, T.J. Watt.
There is absolutely no reason to waste that type of talent because of an anemic offense headed by a backup-caliber quarterback. And in reality, that is what Pickett has proven to be through 24 career starts.
- Kenny Pickett career stats: 62.6% completion, 4,474 yards, 13 TD, 13 INT, 78.8 QB rating
The good news here is that Khan and Co. will have options in the offseason. Veterans Kirk Cousins, Baker Mayfield, Jameis Winston and Gardner Minshew are all slated to become free agents. Others such as Mac Jones and Kyler Murray could potentially be had on the trade block. All of these would be seen as upgrades over the current iteration of Kenny Pickett.
When looking at it in a vacuum, Pittsburgh is ready to compete as long as it upgrades on the offensive side of the ball. It is obviously about more than the quarterback position. Running back Najee Harris has been inconsistent at best. The wide receiver grouping is drama filled and has its own inconsistencies.
Despite all of this, Pittsburgh heads into Thursday night with a 7-5 record and firmly in the AFC Playoff picture. Imagine where this team would be with better quarterback play. Trubisky has an opportunity to prove that Pickett is a big part of the problem. That’s true even if the veteran and his team don’t want to admit it.