Steelers' Mike Tomlin: Kenny Pickett 'Certainly Has a Chance' to Start Week 1

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 30, 2022

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 23: Kenny Pickett #8 of the Pittsburgh Panthers drops back to pass during the game against the Clemson Tigers at Heinz Field on October 23, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
Justin Berl/Getty Images

While Mitchell Trubisky seemingly has the inside track, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed first-round draft pick Kenny Pickett "certainly has a chance" to be the Week 1 starter.

"We felt he came ready-made and hopefully that’s an asset to him being readyβ€”if performance dictates," Tomlin said Saturday on NFL Network.

NFL Network @nflnetwork

β€œHe certainly has a chance.”<br><br>Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin on <a href="https://twitter.com/kennypickett10?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@kennypickett10</a> being a Week 1 starter. <a href="https://t.co/AIJUB1i2dC">pic.twitter.com/AIJUB1i2dC</a>

With the signing of Trubisky on a two-year, $14.3 million deal, some wondered if the Steelers were willing to gamble on Malik Willis in the first round. Willis isn't suited to be a starter right away, so it made sense for Pittsburgh to have him back up Trubisky in 2022.

Instead, the franchise went in the opposite direction with Pickett. The Heisman Trophy finalist will turn 24 in June, so he isn't somebody you draft with the idea of letting him hold a clipboard for a year or two. 

Tim Benz @TimBenzPGH

Steelers fans the last month...I think this Mitch Trubisky is going to work out great.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Steelers?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Steelers</a> fans tonight...I think Pickett should start Week 1

NFL Network's Tom Pelissero spoke to an NFC general manager who called Pickett "the most ready to play," and one coordinator from an AFC team said he "can function at a winning level right now" with a "real good team" around him.

Beyond benefiting from the winning culture Tomlin has helped to maintain, Pickett is joining an offense that includes Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool. George Pickens, a second-rounder, adds to the depth at wide receiver.

It's tough to envision a better realistic scenario for Pickett heading into his rookie season.

The GM interviewed by Pelissero drew a parallel between Pickett and Mac Jones, and that comparison looks even more apt now.

Jones was joining a New England Patriots squad that had already re-signed Cam Newton, with Newton the presumed starter. Head coach Bill Belichick opted for Jones as his No. 1 QB and released Newton altogether.

If Trubisky signed with the Steelers thinking he'd rebuild his value with a return to form, then he might be sorely mistaken.