In his final press conference of the 2023 season, Mike Tomlin planted a seed in the heads of Pittsburgh Steelers fans that there’d be an actual quarterback competition this spring. But those hopes seemed to be dashed in Arthur Smith’s first interview as offensive coordinator.
When it came to the top position on the team, Pickett’s was the only name broached by Smith.
“It’s exciting to hear the way that this offense is built with a lot of young players and obviously, where Kenny Pickett is at going into his third year,” Smith said in an interview with Missi Matthews of Steelers.com.
“Playing with a young quarterback — being efficient, being able to get the ball out and making the smart decisions, getting the ball in the playmakers’ hands and taking care of the football. A lot of things that come up, the responsibility of playing quarterback in the National Football League, there’s pressure situations. They happen all game. Having command of those situations and ultimately putting the ball in the end zone, whether that’s through the air, handing it off or running it in, there’s a lot on him. There’s a natural evolution that happens with the quarterback.”
Helping Pickett feel comfortable enough to make plays from the pocket will be key this offseason, as his bailing at the first sign of pressure has been a glaring issue. But guiding Pickett can only work after one essential thing is established.
“There’s a relationship that’s got to be built between me and Kenny,” Smith said. “And that’s so paramount between the playcaller and the quarterback. The quarterback is obviously the one out there between the white lines, and there’s a trust that’s going to be built daily, and it goes both ways. I’ve got to earn Kenny’s trust and vice versa as we build this offense and all the things we want to work on, and we want him to work on and take command of this offense.”
Although Mitch Trubisky is still under contract with Pittsburgh, his name went unspoken. There’d be no reason to mention late-season hero Mason Rudolph, as his contract expired after the Steelers lost to the Buffalo Bills, and he awaits his first true run at the free agency market next month.
Of course, the NFL season won’t officially end until next week. It’s far too early to know who will be added to the quarterback room this offseason, let alone if Pickett will be challenged for the starting gig. And it’s difficult to speak knowledgeably about the unknown, especially as the new guy.