The Pittsburgh Steelers begin the first training camp of coach Mike Tomlin’s tenure without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on the team. Between now and Week One, they’ll figure out who his successor will be, at least for Week One and potentially for the whole season.
Meeting with reporters, Tomlin addressed what he called “the elephant in the room.” The first unsettled quarterback position that the Steelers have had in a generation.
“We’re not going to micromanage or overmanage this quarterback competition,” Tomlin said, via the team’s official website. “The depth chart will not rest on every throw. I know that you guys will want to ask me every day and after 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.”
Tomlin also vowed not to overthink the situation, including whether rookie first-rounder Kenny Pickett develops quickly as a team leader.
“I’m not overly concerned about that narrative,” Tomlin said. “I think when you’re 22, 23, 24 years old and you’ve been playing quarterback your whole life, you understand those informal responsibilities that come with the position. I’m more concerned about tangible things: accuracy, taking care of the ball, and things of that nature. I don’t have any level of concern about those other things being in his wheelhouse. I watched him do it next door 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.”
The more significant discussion will be performance. In training camp. In the preseason. And the projected play once the real games start.
There’s a vibe that veteran Mitchell Trubisky holds the edge, but young quarterbacks often find themselves not having the starting job handed to them. They have to earn it. It gets the rest of the team to buy in. It also allows the rookie to develop confidence before he has to display any of it during games that count.
Remember, Roethlisberger didn’t start the first game of his rookie year in 2004. And he was drafted 11 spots higher than Pickett. Ben ended up playing only after Tommy Maddox got injured in September. The team went 15-1, made it to the AFC Championship, and the starting quarterback job became settled for the balance of Roethlisberger’s career.
Remember this as well. It’s always easier to remove the veteran for the rookie than the other way around. Once the rookie is installed as the starter, it becomes difficult to go back. Still, if anyone can defy convention, it’s Tomlin. He’ll do what’s best for the team — both for 2022 and beyond. Pickett will get the job if he earns the job. He’ll keep the job if he deserves it. If he doesn’t someone else will.
Through it all, Tomlin will keep doing things the way he’s always done them. He hasn’t had a losing season yet, which validates the approach he has utilized every year since his first training camp, way back in 2007.