Since taking over as the Steelers' starting quarterback last season, Kenny Pickett has had plenty of defenders, but also plenty of haters. Whether it is due to his play, play-calling, offensive scheme or some combination of the three he has been unable to give the Steelers a definitive answer of whether or not he is their long-term answer at the quarterback position.
However, despite this, there might be a much bigger question mark with Kenny Pickett than his play on the field. The question mark in question for Pickett is durability.
Is Pickett durable enough to rely on as a franchise quarterback?
Obviously, on-field play is extremely important. However, if you're not on the field it is hard to truly gauge what you have in a player, and it becomes hard to rely upon them. Despite only starting in 24 games thus far in his NFL career, Pickett has already dealt with a myriad of injuries.
After leaving Sunday's game against the Cardinals with an ankle injury, Pickett has now suffered five injuries in his NFL career. In addition to his latest injury, he has also dealt with a pair of concussions, a bone bruise on his knee, and rib pain, all in a matter of a year and a half. The old saying is that "your best ability is your availability" and Pickett has not proven that thus far as a professional quarterback.
Pickett is the starter for a reason, and that is because he gives the Steelers the best chance to win, now and in the future of the players on the roster. If he is to be given the keys to the organization he needs to be on the field.
While it's not his fault that he has suffered these injuries, being labeled a brittle quarterback is not something Pickett wants to see happen. If he can't stay healthy the team must begin looking to alternative options at the position for next year and beyond.
Quarterbacks are crucial to a team's success, you can't afford to lose them
In the modern NFL, unquestionably, the quarterback is the most important position. This is clear in Pittsburgh as well, as even though he has not been even close to the Steelers' best players losing him to an injury is one of the most devastating injuries the team can suffer.
Mitch Trubisky has been in the NFL for some time now and has proven to be a capable backup. However, that is all that he is, he is not a starter whom a team should expect to go out and win big games. In games that he has taken over as the starter for Pittsburgh, or has started, he has consistently turned the ball over. Add to that the fact that he has appeared to be a one-read quarterback, where he looks at his first read and if it's not open, either runs or checks it down, and starting him is not ideal for Pittsburgh.
Hopefully, this isn't the case and Trubisky can perform admirably in Pickett's absence and keep the Steelers in the playoff race. Additionally, Steelers' fans will hope that Pickett's injury will not keep him out too long, as hopefully two to four weeks is the most he misses, and he can return to a team still in the playoff race.
If Pickett wants to be the long-term answer at the quarterback position in Pittsburgh, before he worries about his on-field play, he has to make sure that he can stay on the field. In all likelihood, Pickett will enter next year as the starter. Still, it will be the last shot he has to take the reigns and prove he's the franchise guy, and to do that, his availability and his play on the field must drastically improve, or the Steelers will look in another direction.