Steelers finally turned to Kenny Pickett, and if they're smart they'll keep doing so

The Pittsburgh Steelers kicked off a new era at quarterback when head coach Mike Tomlin, smartly, benched Mitch Trubisky in favor of first-round rookie Kenny Pickett during the Steelers' 24-20 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday.

Trubisky was brought to the team this offseason to be a bridge quarterback, but that bridge was supported by papier-mâché beams. He had managed only two passing touchdowns throughout the first three weeks and threw an interception prior to taking a seat Sunday. There wasn’t much that Pickett could be learning from watching Trubisky struggle, so why not give him an opportunity?

Pickett wasn’t flawless, not that anyone expected him to be in his first real NFL action, but he was competent enough for the Steelers to score touchdowns in the second half. He scored the first touchdown of his career on a sneak and ran in a second TD a few drives later.

Pickett threw three interceptions, but one of those came on a Hail Mary on the final play of the game. (To his credit he threw a laser to George Pickens to move the Steelers into Hail-Mary range in the first place.)

Pittsburgh needed to see what it has in Pickett, and the Steelers probably confirmed one thing: He’s better than Trubisky. Tomlin said himself after the game that the Steelers “needed a spark” on offense. Even with the turnovers, Pickett provided life that Trubisky wasn’t giving them.

That’s fine for now. The Steelers were desperate for any signs of life on offense, and they at least have something that’s better than what they were trotting out earlier. This was a necessary change that gives them at least a chance — Tomlin wouldn't comment on who will start next week — to get better in the present while they evaluate their future with Pickett.

How much better remains to be seen. Ideally, Pickett is someone who can raise the floor of the Steelers' offense. He’s an older draft prospect and started for four years at the University of Pittsburgh. In theory, he should hit the ground running faster than some of the more unproven draft prospects. At the same time, Pickett doesn’t possess otherworldly traits that make fans dream of an unlimited upside. Pickett is supposed to be a safe quarterback prospect and the Steelers' offense could definitely use a sturdy set of guard rails now.

Unfortunately for Pickett, he finds himself in a hole in the AFC North. The Steelers are the only team to sit at 1-3 in the division, with games against the Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles coming up. If the Steelers' defense can bounce back from its late collapse against the Jets and Pickett can cut down on turnovers, then they have a chance to keep pace with their divisional rivals and muddy up some games that might have been harder to win with Trubisky.

Pickett probably should have started from the jump, but at least the Steelers are shaking things up before it gets too late in the season. It’s a Pickett party in Pittsburgh and now he has his chance to become the next long-term starting quarterback for the Steelers.

Mike Tomlin won't commit to first-round rookie Kenny Pickett starting at quarterback next week after his NFL debut on Sunday, but it's the smart thing to do. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Mike Tomlin won't commit to first-round rookie Kenny Pickett starting at quarterback next week after his NFL debut on Sunday, but it's the smart thing to do. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)