Counterargument: Kenny Pickett Shouldn't Start Now or Any Time Soon

(Associated Press)

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Yesterday, my colleague Antonio Wolfe wrote an article detailing why he believes the Pittsburgh Steelers should start Kenny Pickett now.  If you haven't read it yet, definitely check it out here.  While I respect his opinion, and he makes some decent points, I must say that I vehemently disagree.

There has been a lot of outcry from Steelers fans that now is the time to insert Kenny Pickett over Mitch Trubisky as the team's starting quarterback.  After a 1-2 start to the season, they believe they've seen enough from Trubisky to warrant such a move.  

Although Trubisky certainly hasn't played well, I still firmly believe the majority of this has to do with offensive coordinator Matt Canada's play-calling.  While it was slightly better in last Thursday's game against the Cleveland Browns, it still leaves a lot to be desired.  Per Warren Sharp, through three games, the Steelers are averaging 24 yards per drive and have suffered a 3-and-out on 33% of their drives.  Both are dismal numbers that can't solely be placed on the quarterback.

With the offense still being ironed out and really having no identity, it doesn't make sense to add a rookie into the mix.  While Pickett could potentially add a spark to the offense, I feel the risk greatly exceeds the reward.  Antonio highlighted Jacksonville Jaguars' quarterback Trevor Lawrence as his primary example as to why the Steelers shouldn't shy away from starting a rookie early on in his career.  However, I believe there to be an abundance of examples that go against the argument of starting a quarterback early in his rookie season as well. 

If we're going to stick with guys taken early in the draft comparison, however, look no further than the start of Trubisky's career.  He was the second overall pick in the 2017 draft by the Chicago Bears.  He was named the starter in Game 6 of his rookie season in a similarly dysfunctional offense and things just flat out did not work out.  The fans turned on him quickly and he was run out of town just a few years later.  Conversely, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the tenth pick in the same draft,  sat almost his entire rookie season, starting just one game, and look at how he turned out.

I could sit here and name more examples supporting my argument, as I'm sure he could his, which goes to show just how situational it is.  Trubisky was put into a bad situation in the beginning of his career and it failed miserably.  Mahomes was in a better situation in Kansas City and sitting him for nearly his entire rookie season turned out to be successful.  I would categorize the current Steelers offense as more of the former, and entering Pickett into it right now could greatly hurt his confidence, his reputation with fans, and ultimately his career.

Although it is fun to compare players to other players, my strongest argument against starting Pickett now, or even in the near future, lies with the upcoming schedule.  The Steelers play the New York Jets this Sunday.  Following that, the next four teams they play, in order, are the Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles.  The combined records of those four teams so far in 2022 is 10-2 and all four are looking like solid playoff teams.  

Why would we want to throw a rookie quarterback into the chaos that already is our offense against four top-tier teams?  It's a recipe for disaster and doesn't make any sense to me.

It obviously sounds good in theory to say now is the time to replace the struggling quarterback with the new rookie quarterback that is locally grown.  But we have to look at things from a realistic perspective too.  Rookie quarterbacks have shown to be very fickle over the years.  If he's called upon now to lead this Matt Canada-offense we've seen so far against some of the best defenses in the league, success seems like a slim possibility.  It is just way too likely to do harm to Pickett than it is to do any good to the outlook of the team this year.

I'm not here to say that playing Pickett at all this year is crazy.  I'm strongly on the side of young players getting valuable experience.  I'm just saying that now is not the time for it.  If after those five games that I mentioned, the team is still sputtering and the season looks lost, then by all means start him.  After that last game against the Eagles, the Steelers have their bye week.  That would be a prime opportunity to announce Pickett as the starter, given the extra week of practice.  

However, I couldn't be more against the argument of starting him now.  With the current state of the offense and the difficult portion of the schedule looming, there's way too many ways for things to go south quickly for a rookie quarterback.