The Pittsburgh Steelers and their dedicated fan base are in uncharted territory heading into the 2022 NFL season. Dating back to 2004, the Steelers had become the fourth-longest franchise in the NFL since drafting a quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft (Seattle in 1993, Dallas in 1989 and New Orleans in 1971). It’s been 18 years since Steelers fans drafted a first-round quarterback on the roster, what should they expect for their rookie season?
After selecting quarterback Kenny Pickett from the University of Pittsburgh in 20th place in the 2022 NFL Draft, many Steelers fans are expecting him to be the Week 1 starter in September. There are a number of reasons behind this, some of which are valid and some of which are not. Let’s take a look at a few of these things to make sure they actually stand up to what’s going on in the NFL today.
One of the rationales for the rookie quarterback leaving in Week 1 is for more teams to start quarterbacks right away. This is actually not the case. Going back 10 years (2012 to 2021), there have been 27 quarterbacks drafted into the top 20 of the NFL Draft. In fact, they were all drafted into the top 16 because there were no quarterbacks caught between pick 17 and pick 21 in the last decade until the Steelers made Kenny Pickett. the first-ever NFL quarterback drafted 20th overall. Of those 27 quarterbacks drafted in the first half of the first round, 13 of them were starters for Week 1 of their rookie season. Doing the simple math, that means 14 of those quarterbacks didn’t start right away. So based on those numbers, it’s roughly 50-50 if a rookie quarterback is given the reins to start his team early in the season when he’s drafted in the top half of the NFL Draft. .
When it comes to quarterbacks taken in the second half of the first round of the NFL Draft over the past 10 seasons, there have only been six selected there before 2022. Of those quarterbacks, only Brandon Weeden of Cleveland Browns in 2012 started the first game of their team. Of the other five quarterbacks, four of them eventually started their rookie season games but did not start the season doing so. The only exception was Jordan Love from Green Bay Packers who hasn’t played a game in his rookie season.
Looking at the history of the Steelers and how they handled their rookie quarterbacks who were first round picks, there are only three players to choose from since 1970. Terry Bradshaw started his first game in 1970 as a as the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, but didn’t start every game of his rookie season. Mark Malone was the 28th overall pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1980 NFL Draft and didn’t throw a pass in a game until 1981. The best standard for Steelers fans is Ben Roethlisberger, draft 11th overall in the 2004 NFL Draft. Despite being such a high draft pick, Roethlisberger entered the 2004 season as the Steelers’ third quarterback. Roethlisberger was quickly promoted to second when Charlie Batch injured his knee and lost all season. But even then, Roethlisberger was the substitute and didn’t start until the third game of his first year after coming off the bench in Week 2 due to the injury suffered by Tommy Maddox.
Comparing Kenny Pickett’s situation to Ben Roethlisberger, some Steelers fans are willing to force Pickett into the starting lineup right away because of the quality of the quarterbacks on the roster. Although they believe this to be true, the two quarterbacks ahead of Roethlisberger his rookie season had no winning records at that time in the NFL. Together, Batch and Maddox had a record as starters of 32–44–1 while the current record for quarterbacks on the Steelers 2022 roster of Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph is a combined record of 34–25–1. In other words, Trubisky and Rudolph are two more wins in 17 games less of the quarterbacks who stayed ahead of Ben Roethlisberger on the depth chart in his rookie season until injuries arose.
While some might want to argue that Kenny Pickett turned 24 this offseason and was considered the most “pro-ready” quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft class, are any reason to push Pickett into the starting lineup prematurely? First, the most ‘pro-ready’ quarterback is only for those in the 2022 quarterback class. It’s not that Kenny Pickett was considered the most ‘pro-ready’ quarterback. of the NFL Draft over the past 10 years. While this gives him the advantage of being prepared earlier, it shouldn’t necessarily force the issue. When it comes to the age factor, quarterback is one of the few positions in the NFL where players can have an exceptionally long career. Whether Pickett turns 34 or 35 after 10 years as an NFL starter isn’t too important right now.
Yes, there is a large portion of the Steelers fanbase who are very excited to see what Kenny Pickett can do at quarterback in 2022. Although he will see some action for sure during the pre- season, for many it’s just not good enough and want to see it against the best that other teams offer. But do fans need to know right away? Or would it be better if the Steelers didn’t push Pickett into the starting lineup before they wanted to?
I’m not saying Kenny Pickett shouldn’t be played in Week 1 of his rookie season. I question fans who expect Pickett to play right away. Let the pre-season tell the story. If the Steelers choose to give him a little more time before taking over, that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. Plus, based on how first-round quarterbacks have been used in their rookie seasons over the past 10 years, it wouldn’t be for the Steelers to do anything extraordinary if they do. proof of patience.