The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers had an open quarterback competition, Jim Miller, Mike Tomczak and Kordell Stewart were vying for the job during the 1996 offseason.
Now, nearly three decades later, a new trio of challengers are preparing to compete for the job. That evaluation begins this weekend when Kenny Pickett suits up as a Steeler for the first time at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for rookie minicamp.
With Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement, the Steelers spent their offseason retooling and reloading in an effort to find his replacement. After free agency and the NFL draft, the Steelers came away with three additions. Joining Mason Rudolph in the quarterback room will be Mitch Trubisky, Pickett and Chris Oladokun.
Realistically, seventh-round pick Oladokun isn’t in the mix for the starting job, making this a three-man race. Will it be the rookie, the free-agent acquisition looking to turn things around or the in-house candidate attempting to make a statement?
NFL experience: Rookie
Why he has a chance to be the starter: The Steelers don’t view their first-round pick as a developmental project, putting him firmly in the mix to be the Week 1 starter. After drafting the 24-year-old Pickett with the 20th pick, Mike Tomlin said the quarterback will get the opportunity to compete for the starting job, and both Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert said Pickett’s decision to stay in college for another year greatly aided in his maturity and development.
In a Pittsburgh radio interview, Colbert compared Pickett’s last season at Pitt to a rookie season in the NFL.
“It’s almost like he spent his rookie NFL season at the college level, and really mastered it,” Colbert told 105.9 The X. “Coach [Pat] Narduzzi and coach [Mark] Whipple provided him an opportunity to take that step in a pro schematic. And it is easier to project those types of players and those schematics to our level. It’s not that the others that play in a more college-type offense can’t do it -- it’s just more guesswork.”
Pickett also has the benefit of reuniting with offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who recruited him to Pitt. The two never worked together on the college level, as Canada left for LSU, but Pickett is familiar with Canada’s concepts and Canada obviously felt Pickett fit in with what he wanted to do.