He arrived at Saint Vincent as probably the most scrutinized third-stringer in 55 training camps staged there.
But while many of the eyes of Steelers Nation will be on Kenny Pickett, his coach is one man he won’t necessarily need to impress.
At least when it comes to the intangibles and leadership qualities required of a quarterback at the NFL level.
“I don’t have any level of concern about those things being in his wheelhouse,” coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday after players reported for camp. “I watched him do it next door (at Pitt) in terms of leading his guys and being what we need quarterbacks to be. I don’t think that’s going to be a significant discussion.”
A four-year starter at Pitt, the college program that shares UPMC Rooney Sports Complex facility on Pittsburgh’s South Side with the Steelers, Pickett was drafted with the 20th overall pick in April. He was the only quarterback taken in the first two rounds, and the first quarterback the Steelers took that high since Ben Roethlisberger in 2004.
Roethlisberger retired in January, and Pickett is almost certainly his long-term replacement. But to begin his first training camp, Pickett will be No. 3 on the QB depth chart. For organized team activities and minicamp earlier this summer, veterans Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph occupied the top two spots. Tomlin said Tuesday that hasn’t changed now that the Steelers have temporarily moved operations to Westmoreland County.
“And I’ll say this because I understand that’s the elephant in the room: We’re not going to micromanage or overmanage this quarterback competition,” Tomlin said. “The depth chart will not rest on every throw. I know that (the media) will want to ask me every day and every throw, but we’re going to be a little bit more steady than that.
“I think it’s important from a leadership perspective to not overmanage it, to not be too impulsive. So that’s what I’ve relayed to those guys, and our actions will continue to display that mindset.”
A Heisman Trophy finalist who led Pitt to its first outright conference title last year, Pickett is sharing a Rooney Hall dorm room with fellow rookie quarterback Chris Olodukun. A seventh-round pick, Oladokun is the No. 4 on the depth chart. Barring injury or trade, Oladokun would figure to have little upward mobility on it.
Pickett, though, at least theoretically could impress and become the No. 2 — or, just maybe, the No. 1 — at some point in the coming weeks and months. Tomlin said the tangibles he’s looking for from Pickett in his first NFL camp are “accuracy, taking care of the ball and things of that nature.”
Pickett was less specific when he was asked what he needs to do to win more playing time.
“I mean, just be consistent and play my game every day,” Pickett said. “I’m just focused on getting better. (The prospect of starting) is a long ways away, coming from where I was in spring and just kind of learning the offense and things like that. So I just want to compete and get better every day.”
Pickett trained in his native New Jersey over the six weeks between minicamp and reporting day at Saint Vincent. He trained some with second-year tight end Pat Freiermuth, whose girlfriend lives near Pickett’s hometown in the Garden State.
Pickett expressed Tuesday an eagerness to finally get onto the practice field and show how his offseason mental preparation translates to team drills.
“I spent a lot of time studying and preparing and getting ready,” Pickett said. “It’s a little different, obviously, when you go play. So I just want to get the reps under my belt, and I think every day, just like in the spring, I’ll get better and better and feel more comfortable.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .