Kenny Pickett as the 3rd String is More Encouraging Than Not

Associated Press


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Editor's Note: A new version of the depth chart released today, after this was published, in fact had Kenny Pickett as the backup, and not the third string.

For those living under a rock, the Pittsburgh Steelers released their depth chart yesterday for their Week 1 game in Cincinnati this Sunday.  Fans were eager to find out the quarterback order, despite it being pretty clear early on that Mitch Trubisky was the Steelers starter going into the year.  Sure enough, Trubisky was at the top of the column.  However, what caused an uproar among the fan base is the order of number 2 and 3.  Currently, Mason Rudolph is listed as the backup making Kenny Pickett the 3rd string.

Well, as expected, the Twitter and Facebook comments started rolling in.  "How do you draft the first quarterback off the board and make him a third string?"  and "When was the last time the first quarterback off the board isn't even dressing in Week 1?" or "Tomlin sucks."  All comments, I'm sure, the organization expected.

I'm here to tell you, this could not be a smaller deal.  Kenny Pickett as the No. 3 quarterback on paper is actually more encouraging to me when it comes to Pickett than discouraging.  I'll explain why.  

Kenny Pickett is being protected by the Steelers.  Using a 1st round draft pick on a quarterback is a huge investment, and that investment is worth protecting.  If Trubisky were to go down due to injury, you do not want your investment's first professional appearance to be in the middle of the 2nd quarter without time to work with the 1st team in practice that week.  It's not the ideal situation, and the organization rightfully wants their new golden child to be given the ideal situation for his first appearance.

If Trubisky struggles this season, and that truly is still an "if", then you give Pickett either a full week of practice reps with the first team, or even two full weeks by using the Week 9 bye.  Then, Pickett makes his first appearance in the most ideal situation and with the most preparation.  The organization is not looking to throw Pickett to the wolves in the middle of a game, and us as fans shouldn't be looking for that either.  

Additionally, this makes the statement that Mason Rudolph is the backup quarterback.  He only plays if Trubisky goes down due to injury in the middle of a game.  Rudolph is not taking over as a starter for Trubisky at any point in time. He is an emergency option.  Pickett is not.  

Pickett is waiting in the wings for his time to be a starter.  Rudolph is a backup quarterback.  The organization is showing they value Pickett, and his development, higher than Rudolph's.  Again, rightfully so.

The final point I'll make as to why this is encouraging is that it shows the Steelers commitment to win this season.  Not only are they putting Pickett in the best position to develop and appear in the ideal situation, but they are taking the pressure off Trubisky.  

I still want, despite being a huge Kenny Pickett fan, for the Steelers to win every single game, regardless of the quarterback.  With Trubisky always being the Week 1 starter, the best way to make him feel the most comfortable is to not make it appear as if every game is a QB Battle.  Kenny is no longer breathing down Mitch's neck as he was in the preseason.  And Rudolph certainly isn't either.  This should give Mitch the confidence to just go out and play. 

Making Pickett the third string is ultimately immaterial.  He is still the next man up if Trubisky struggles.  It also allows for the organization to give Pickett the best situation possible for his first appearance.  And since it's immaterial, you might as well make Pickett the third string so your starting quarterback is the most comfortable he can be.  This is all very encouraging to me, and it should be to you too.

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