The Pittsburgh Steelers QB Battle Was Never Truly Real

Photo credit: Karl Roser/Pittsburgh Steelers

I know it's been quite a while since us Pittsburgh Steeler fans have had a quarterback battle to talk about.  Ever since Ben Roethlisberger took over the reigns from an injured Tommy Maddox in 2004, we've known, for the most part, who our starting quarterback was going to be in Pittsburgh.  

Some of our younger readers may have never watched a Steeler game without Big Ben starting when healthy.  Obviously there was the 2019 season, suspensions, and some injuries here and there that led to backups playing, but Ben has been a steady presence for almost two decades now.  He has been our quarterback.

However, even though it's been such a long time since we've had to talk about it, we still knew that this "Quarterback battle" in training camp was just lip service, right?  The Steelers signed Mitch Trubisky with the knowledge that they would probably draft a top quarterback this season at No. 20.  They couldn't guarantee it'd be Kenny Pickett, but they knew Trubisky would only be needed as a "bridge QB" until the new guy was ready.  

Plus, the Steelers knew when drafting a quarterback in the 1st round that Trubisky was already on the roster and ready to start.  No matter who they drafted, some sort of time would be needed to get the rookie up to speed, and Trubisky would do just fine until then.  No rookie quarterbacks start right away.  Trevor Lawrence didn't and he was a 1st overall draft pick on a truly terrible roster last season.  It just doesn't typically happen right away.

And one of the most obvious "storylines" that would not pan out to be true was that Mason Rudolph would take one of the valuable 53 roster spots over Kenny Pickett, as was prognosticated by some in the media.  You simply do not draft a quarterback in the first round just to have him back up the backup that has never shown the ability to be a consistent quarterback in the National Football League.  It was never going to happen.  

The initial depth chart going into camp that had Pickett as the third string was motivation.  You don't give a rookie the spot over the veteran before a single practice rep, but you make him earn it.  Had Pickett come out and thrown three interceptions in the preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, then sure, maybe he's the legitimate third string.  However, any competence shown by Pickett in that game was going to bump him up to that second string spot.  And not only did he display competence, he stood out as very good.

Now, as expected, Pickett has begun to receive more reps with the second stringers and starters than Rudolph.  Rudolph has expectedly fallen to the third string spot, and I hope the Steelers mercilessly find him a new home.  I'm not sure why so many fans hate him, but they do, and it's time to get Mason out of Pittsburgh for his sake.

Also, despite Pickett showing every reason in both camp and the preseason game that he could be a starter in the NFL, Trubisky remains the starter.  And he should.  As I said above, rookie quarterbacks do not start right away in the NFL.  

However, all of this shows that the QB Battle was never real.  Pickett played well enough to be the starter and Rudolph didn't play poorly enough to warrant falling to third string.  We all knew how the depth chart would shake out barring injury or truly terrible performances in the preseason or camp.  So yes Pittsburgh, it has been a while since we've seen the changing of the guard at quarterback.  And it is fun to talk about.  

But surely we all knew this "battle" wasn't real, right?