Kenny Pickett vs Mitch Trubisky: Who should lead the Steelers offense?

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks Mitch Trubisky (10) and Kenny Pickett (8) celebrate after defeating the Seattle Seahawks at Acrisure Stadium. The Steelers won 32-25. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks Mitch Trubisky (10) and Kenny Pickett (8) celebrate after defeating the Seattle Seahawks at Acrisure Stadium. The Steelers won 32-25. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Fans have argued for both Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett to lead the Pittsburgh Steelers as the starting quarterback, but what does the tape suggest? 

Despite the Pittsburgh Steelers 2-5 start and ranking near the bottom of the NFL in most of the major offensive statistical categories, head coach Mike Tomlin isn’t ready to make major changes to his offense (i.e., firing offensive coordinator Matt Canada) this week.

“I don’t feel like I’m there”, Tomlin responded Tuesday to a reporter’s vague question, but one presumably about whether or not he was going to tell Canada to “take off, to the great white North” (that’s a Bob & Doug McKenzie/Geddy Lee reference for you kids out there…look it up on YouTube). However, Tomlin has already made one major change to his offense this season, replacing starting QB Mitch Trubisky with rookie Kenny Pickett midway through the New York Jets game in week four.

At this point, the two have played as close to the same amount of time as possible, with Trubisky playing nearly 105 minutes and Pickett countering with just over 101 minutes of action. So, I thought it would be good to take a look at the statistical comparison between the two. The stats below were collected from game boxscores, Pro-Football-Reference, and

Keep in mind that both of the Steelers’ quarterbacks have been saddled with a less-than-ideal offensive system, and they’re new to the team as well. But at least this will give you a glimpse at how they compare to one another.

Trubisky leads Pickett in overall effectiveness

With apologies to all of the Pickett fans out there, it’s hard to argue that Trubisky hasn’t been the catalyst for both of the Steelers’ wins this season. After playing the entire game in the season-opening, 23-20 overtime win at Cincinnati, he came off the bench after an injury to Pickett and was a stud in Pittsburgh’s 20-18 victory over visiting Tampa Bay with a strong fourth quarter.

One item to note is that the record of Trubisky’s opponents in the four games he’s started (at Cincinnati, New England, at Cleveland, New York Jets) is currently 14-14 (.500), while Pickett’s opponents in the three games he’s started (at Buffalo, Tampa Bay, at Miami) currently have a 12-8 (.600) mark.

Including their entire playing time (both as starters and coming off the bench), Trubisky has led the Steelers to an offensive score on 28.3 percent of his drives, with 13 scores (5 TDs and 8 FGs) on 46 possessions. Pickett has led eight scoring drives (4 TDs and 4 FGs) in 34 offensive possessions (23.5%).

Games Played/Games Started: Trubisky-5/4; Pickett-4/3
Team Record as Starter: Trubisky 1-3; Pickett 1-2
Total Snaps: Trubisky-241; Pickett-218
Total Time of Possession: Trubisky-104:36; Pickett-101:20
Total Offensive Drives: Trubisky-46; Pickett-34
Team Total Scoring Drives (Points Responsible For): Trubisky-13 (60 pts); Pickett-8 (40 pts)
Team Scoring Drive Pct. (# of Drives/# of Scoring Drives): Trubisky-28.3%; Pickett-23.5%

Pickett leads Trubisky in drive longevity

Those in Pickett’s corner will be satisfied to know that he’s out-performed Trubisky in drive longevity, as 13 of Pickett’s 34 offensive drives (38.2%) have lasted seven plays or longer and have accounted for 30 of the 40 points (75.0%) he’s guided the team to. Trubisky has had 15 of 46 drives (32.6%) go for at least seven plays, accounting for 44 of the 60 points (73.3%) he’s helped produce.

Likewise, Pickett has led the Steelers on 50-plus-yard drives 10 times in 34 chances (29.4%), leading to 27 points (67.5%). Trubisky has done that just eight times in 46 opportunities (17.4%), but those eight 50-plus-yard drives have led to 44 points (73.3%).

In addition, only 13 of Pickett’s 34 drives (38.2%) have ended with a punt, but that’s partially due to the fact that seven of his drives (20.6%) have ended with a turnover. Trubisky’s 46 drives have ended in a punt 23 times (50.0%), but he’s only had three drives end with the team committing a turnover (0.1%).

Drives of 7+ Plays (Points Responsible For): Trubisky-15 (54 pts); Pickett-13 (30 pts)
Drives of 50+ Yards Gained (Points Responsible For): Trubisky-8 (44 pts); Pickett-10 (27 pts)
Team First Downs: Trubisky-64 (21 rush, 40 pass, 3 pen); Pickett-62 (13 rush, 44 pass, 5 pen)
Team 3rd Down Efficiency: Trubisky-36.5% (19-52); Pickett-37.2% (16-43)
Team 4th Down Efficiency: Trubisky- n/a (0-0); Pickett-57.1% (4-7)
3 & Out Drives (Pct.): Trubisky-14 (30.4%); Pickett-11 (32.4%)
Drives Ending With Punt: Trubisky-23 (50.0%); Pickett-13 (38.2%)
Drives Ending With Turnover: Trubisky-3 (0.1%); Pickett-7 (20.6%)
Drives Ending With Missed FG: Trubisky-2 (0.04%); Pickett-2 (0.05%)
Drives Ending At Half/End of Game: Trubisky-5; Pickett-1
Drives Ending on Downs: Trubisky-0; Pickett-3
Team Red Zone Efficiency: Trubisky-62.5% (5-8); Pickett-40.0% (4-10)
Team Goal To Go Efficiency: Trubisky-75.0% (3-4); Pickett-100.0% (4-4)

Steelers passing stats say it’s a push

Neither quarterback has really separated themselves from the other when it comes to passing statistics. Trubisky has thrown one more pass than Pickett, but the latter has a higher completion percentage. The rookie has completed 68.5 percent of his passes (87-of-127) — a mark that ranks fourth in the NFL — for 771 yards and 2 TDs. Trubisky has completed 60.9 percent of his passes (78-of-128) for 797 yards and 3 TDs.

Interceptions have been Pickett’s Achilles heel, as he’s tossed seven already this season. That ranks as the third-most in the NFL with an interception thrown on 5.5 percent of his pass attempts. Meanwhile, Trubisky has done a nice job of taking care of the ball when he’s played, throwing just two picks.

Then again, that was part of Trubisky’s problem…being too conservative. He let it loose against Tampa Bay, but before that, it seemed he was too concerned to throw an interception, and thus put the Steelers in some tough situations (see all of the drives that ended in punts above).

Trubisky does have a higher QB Rating than Pickett (80.1 vs. 66.7), but Pickett takes more chances and is averaging 33.4 more passing yards per game (192.8 vs. 159.4) than the former Chicago Bears’ first-round pick.

Pass Completions: Trubisky-78; Pickett-87
Pass Attempts: Trubisky-128; Pickett-127
Completion Pct: Trubisky-60.9%; Pickett-68.5% (4th in NFL)
Passing Yards: Trubisky-797; Pickett-771
Passing TDs: Trubisky-3; Pickett-2
Interceptions Thrown: Trubisky-2 (1.6%); Pickett-7 (5.5%; 3rd-highest in NFL)
First Downs Passing: Trubisky-40; Pickett-44
Longest Completion: Trubisky-45 yards; Pickett-30 Yards
Passing Yards Per Attempt: Trubisky-6.2; Pickett-6.1
Passing Yards Per Completion: Trubisky-10.2; Pickett-8.9
Passing Yards Per Game: Trubisky-159.4; Pickett-192.8
QB Rating: Trubisky-80.1; Pickett-66.7

Receivers seem to favor Pickett, who can also run better

When you look at how the Steelers’ receivers have performed with Trubisky and Pickett, it certainly seems that the group favors the rookie. The receivers have more yards after the catch with Pickett (319, 3.7 per completion) compared to Trubisky (249, 3.2 per completion). They also have fewer drops with Pickett (2) compared to Trubisky (6). That may be because they’ve been on the receiving end of fewer “bad throws” from Pickett (10, 8.2%), compared to Trubisky (23, 18.3%).

When it comes to defensive pressure, opponents have blitzed Trubisky 28 times and Pickett 23 times. Trubisky has been sacked nine times (6.6% of his dropbacks), while Pickett has been taken down behind the line six times (4.5%).

Pickett is averaging 7.0 yards per scramble while trying to avoid a sack and has totaled 61 rushing yards overall with two rushing TDs and five first downs. Trubisky is averaging 4.5 yards per scramble and has accumulated just 29 rushing yards overall with one TD and three first downs.

Yards After Catch: Trubisky-249 (3.2 per completion); Pickett-319 (3.7 per completion)
Receiver Drops (Drop Pct.): Trubisky-6 (4.8%); Pickett-2 (1.6%)
Bad Throws (Bad Throw Pct.): Trubisky-23 (18.3%); Pickett-10 (8.2%)
Rushing Attempts (Yards Per Attempt): Trubisky-13 (2.23); Pickett-12 (5.1)
Rushing Yards: Trubisky-29; Pickett-61
Rushing TDs: Trubisky-1; Pickett-2
Rushing First Downs: Trubisky-3; Pickett-5
Times Blitzed: Trubisky-28; Pickett-23
Times Scrambled (Yards Per Attempt): Trubisky-4 (4.5); Pickett-8 (7.0)
Times Sacked/Yards Lost/Sack Pct: Trubisky-9/53/6.6%; Pickett-6/40/4.5%

Not much separates these two, but Pickett is the right choice

In my opinion, these two are like the Spiderman GIF that’s making the rounds on social media. You know, the one where there are two identical Spidermen pointing at one another?

There’s not much difference right now between Trubisky and Pickett, other than experience. And because of that, the Steelers have to stay the course with Pickett because he’s the future of this team. There will continue to be some growing pains, but he will get better as the season progresses.

Pickett has already shown evidence of getting better, increasing his QB Rating each game until Sunday’s unfortunate contest, when he had two late interceptions against Miami. Pickett had four drives of 10 plays or more against the Dolphins, but it just so happened that the last two proved to end with fatal turnovers. I don’t think he makes those mistakes later this season.

Related Story. Don’t think for a second that the Steelers should bench Kenny Pickett. light

You’ve read the stats and the commentary above about the comparison between Trubisky and Pickett. Let me know what you think in the comments section below.