Pittsburgh Steelers fans everywhere tuned in to hear what Mike Tomlin had to say during his season wrap-up press conference on Thursday afternoon. The long-time head coach began by lightening the mood, stating that he was in a 'little better mood' than the last time we saw him and he jokingly asked if anyone had any contract questions.
Tomlin proceeded to answer a barrage of questions, including a potential contract extension and those pertaining to players on the roster. He was also asked about the quarterback position; specifically, whether or not he believed the starting quarterback for the 2024 season is currently on the roster.
Tomlin didn't waste any time in responding, "Yes."
Tomlin claimed that Pickett will resume his QB1 status in 2024, and despite rolling with the hot hand in Rudolph late in the season, the Steelers head coach spoke glowingly of his former first-round pick.
"“I’m extremely confident in [Kenny Pickett]. I feel stronger about some of the intangible things than I did when we first started doing business with him because I have evidence of it. He’s highly competitive and professional. He doesn’t run from challenges — he runs to challenges. I think that’s evident in the way he plays, particularly in close football games. He’s got good framework to work with for a young guy. He’s mature beyond his years. I am excited about him.”"- Mike Tomlin via press conference
Tomlin did confirm that Pickett 'will be challenged with competition,' but he did not expand on which quarterbacks could be brought in to compete with him. Tomlin also expressed that the team does have interest in Mason Rudolph returning to the roster, but noted that he's scheduled to be a free agent.
Steelers need some stiff competition at quarterback in 2024
I have to admit, it was a bit concerning to see Mike Tomlin answer so quickly and confidently when asked if the QB1 for 2024 is already on the roster. While he might have made the decision to answer this way to Pickett's confidence, it's clear that he's a believer in the former first-round draft choice.
However, for as much confidence as Tomlin seems to have in him, it's interesting that their 'franchise quarterback' was not inserted back into the lineup late into the season and in the playoffs when he was deemed healthy enough to play.
Though Pickett does have a winning record under his belt, his production has been extremely underwhelming during his first two seasons in the NFL. Though 25 starts, Pickett has managed just 13 passing touchdowns to go with 13 interceptions while throwing for 6.3 yards per attempt. All of this equates to just a 78.8 career passer rating entering his third NFL season, per Pro Football Reference.
If Pickett doesn't make colossal improvements in his third season, the Steelers will need to have someone who can step in and push for his job. Tomlin's confidence level in Pickett suggests that this won't be a high-budget free agent or a top draft pick.
Whatever the Pittsburgh Steelers decide to do, they need to keep all of their options open. This team has proven that they could use some stiff competition at quarterback, and they can't place their full confidence in someone who couldn't even take his job back from the third-string quarterback in the NFL Playoffs.