Head coaches love to play mind games. Sometimes it’s to test a player’s will, sometimes, it’s to provide further motivation. That seems to be the story with the Pittsburgh Steelers, with Kenny Pickett landing as the third-string quarterback on the team’s first official depth chart, which Mike Tomlin likely had very little to do with.
Then again, maybe he did. While most coaches don’t put the depth chart together (we’ve heard of cases where they allow an intern to have fun with it), maybe Tomlin had a hand in this particular placement. He doesn’t want his rookie getting too big of a head before he’s even taken his first snap.
There’s a lot of tricks teams like to play while aiming to put together the best roster they can. This usually means not giving the rookies their respect, they have to earn it.
Though it should be noted, fellow rookie George Pickens is listed as a starting receiver after becoming the team’s second-round selection in April. No games being played there.
Related: Mike Tomlin looking forward to the challenge of fixing ‘uncertainty’ at QB position
Why this isn’t a big concern for Kenny Pickett
Despite being a first-round pick, in Pickett’s case, he has to show he can outperform not only Mason Rudolph, who’s been with the team since 2018, but also surpass new free agency signee Mitch Trubisky.
So far Pickett has yet to even take first-team reps with the starters. Those have all gone to Trubisky. It makes sense for the Steelers to give Trubisky every opportunity to succeed, or fail. That’s up to him.
The Steelers brought in Trubisky for a reason, they believe there’s untapped potential in the former first-round pick, but they also didn’t hesitate to make Pickett their first selection in April. They realize both players are a gamble, but in this case, they’ll take as many lotto tickets as they can get to replace Ben Roethlisberger.
Meanwhile for Pickett, ascending up the depth chart is not an impossible hill to climb. The journey begins August 13 when the Seattle Seahawks come to Acrisure Stadium. If Pickett can outplay his fellow competitors, even in stretches, he’ll endear himself to the fans, and sometimes that’s all it takes.
For now, it’s Trubisky’s job to lose. But at the first hint of struggle, Steelers fans will let Tomlin, and everyone else know who deserves a shot. First-round picks don’t sit on the bench for long, and that’s likely to be the case with Pickett too.
Related: Top 2022-23 NFL Rookie of the Year candidates: Kenny Pickett’s a legit choice