Kenny Pickett projects as the future at quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But he's going to have to earn it.
The only quarterback selected in the first round of last week's draft, Pickett joins a quarterback room in Pittsburgh that include Mason Rudolph and free-agent signing Mitchell Trubisky, both of whom have been starters in the NFL.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told NFL Network's Rich Eisen on Wednesday that the Steelers drafted Pickett in part because of his "pro-ready" accuracy. He also had an inside track to getting to know Pickett, who played in college at the University of Pittsburgh, which shares its football facilities with the Steelers.
Kenny Pickett literally has to just walk 12 feet into a different door now 😂 pic.twitter.com/KB5jRCs0sz
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) May 3, 2022
But none of those factors will win Pickett the job. Tomlin says that Pickett will have to beat out Trubisky and Rudolph to be Pittsburgh's Week 1 starter next season.
"I expect it to be fierce because I know all three guys," Tomlin told Eisen of the anticipated quarterback competition. "I don't expect anyone to take a backseat. ...
"I'm excited about watching these guys compete, just like I am at any position where you've got some viable options. So, we'll proceed with that understanding that it's going to be challenging from an organization standpoint, but it's a good challenge, and I'm excited about watching those guys perform."
Could Trubisky or Rudolph really win the job?
Trubisky is five seasons removed from being in Pickett's position. The No. 2 pick by the Chicago Bears in the 2017 draft, Trubisky sat behind Mike Glennon for the first four games of his rookie season. Trubisky took over in Week 5 and started for the better part of four seasons before the Bears eventually pulled the plug, selecting Justin Fields in the first round of the 2021 draft.
Rudolph, meanwhile, was selected in the third round of the 2018 draft as a potential successor to Ben Roethlisberger. Like Trubisky, he's largely disappointed in his NFL opportunities, which includes 10 starts since the 2019 season.
If Pickett doesn't win the Week 1 job, don't expect his hand size to play a role. Concern over his hand measurement at the NFL combine generated buzz about his draft stock. Tomlin explained why it wasn't an issue for the Steelers when they drafted him on Thursday.
"I potentially was capable of buying into that if I didn't watch him play college football in Pittsburgh and deal with the elements that come with playing in this environment," Tomlin told Eisen. "You can get into the hand-size thing or just look at how he performed in a variety of conditions."
Whether or not Pickett's the Week 1 starter, the Steelers didn't draft him in the first round to back up Trubisky or Rudolph. It's a good bet he takes over the reins at some point in 2022, whether it's in Week 1 or beyond.