Why did the Steelers turn the page on Kenny Pickett after 24 starts?

PITTSBURGH — Six hundred and eighty-seven days after being drafted, No. 20 overall pick Kenny Pickett and owner quarterback Art Rooney II were introduced on April 29, 2022, as the man who broke all of Dan Marino's college records is gold.

Sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter that he was traded to Philadelphia, hours after the Pittsburgh Steelers welcomed Russell Wilson to their building Pickett's departure does not signal a complete overhaul of the organization's old-school loyalist way of thinking. If anything, it reinforces that basic principle at the heart of the franchise. It is also an admission that the organization was wrong.

Constrained by a level of talent that fell short of his pick and stubborn decision makers who stepped in too late, Pickett expressed his displeasure with signing Wilson by requesting a trade. It marked the end of an era that some argued should never have begun.

However, the root of the problem lies not with Beckett, but with the organization's refusal to develop a clear plan for Ben Roethlisberger's succession.

In chasing the ghosts of the past, the Steelers failed to adequately prepare for their future, preferring instead to rewrite the organization's past mistakes and cling to the glory days.

And now, two years after Roethlisberger's long-awaited retirement, the team is exactly where it tried to avoid: square one…almost.

Signing Wilson, the impetus behind Pickett's journey through the Commonwealth, prevents the Steelers from starting completely from scratch. At 35 years old, Wilson's best years are behind him, but he's more than capable of being a solid quarterback, especially after a season in which he threw for 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He said at a news conference on Friday that he “felt like myself again.”

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It's the kind of move the Steelers should have made two years ago to prevent landing a quarterback in a historically subpar draft class of signal-callers. And they almost did, but after signing former first-round pick Mitch Trubisky to a modest two-year contract, the organization undercut the veteran by drafting Pickett less than two months later.

Of course, the Steelers could have avoided this scenario if they had invested any significant draft capital in the quarterback position. Instead, the team drafted Mason Rudolph with a third-round pick in 2018. After Rudolph's selection was met with disdain by Roethlisberger, the team did not use another pick on the quarterback until Roethlisberger officially retired following a wild-card loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on January 16, 2022. Although Roethlisberger returned from season-ending elbow surgery in 2019 for the 2020 and 2021 seasons, it was clear his days were numbered.

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Steven A. gets angrier. And Redick because of Wilson's impact on the Steelers

Stephen A. disagrees. Smith and Louis Redick on Russell Wilson's impact on the Steelers' chances next season.

However, the team allowed Roethlisberger to largely dictate the end of his career. When Roethlisberger finally retired, the team had two quarterbacks on the roster: Rudolph and former No. 1 starter Dwayne Haskins. The team signed Trubisky in March 2022. Haskins, who showed some promise for a fresh start after starting his career with Washington, tragically died a month later.

The formula could have worked if the Steelers had drafted another quarterback that year. Trubisky could start for a season while a rookie develops behind the scenes and eventually take over in his second season — something like Patrick Mahomes working behind Alex Smith for a season. But using a valuable first-round pick on the city's adopted son and football hero Pete? Trubisky never had a chance.

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The Pickett chants began from the opening of St. Vincent's College's second training camp, and four weeks into the season, Tomlin picked off Trubisky for Pickett in the first half, unofficially beginning the rookie's tenure as the starting quarterback. Pickett found flashes of magic in his first season, driving three plays in the fourth quarter and showing intangibles that suggested the Steelers might actually be onto something. But after what turned out to be a pre-season for gold, the fairy dust ran out. Pickett finished his Steelers tenure in uniform on the bench while Rudolph started the playoff game.

From the rubble of the Beckett fallout, the Steelers have the opportunity to build a steadier future.

With Pickett gone, the Steelers are no longer saddled with a first-round quarterback who is not living up to expectations. There is no longer a ticking clock to count the days until the club has to make a decision on him for a fifth year in May 2025.

Instead, the team has just one quarterback on the roster, one who took time Friday afternoon to express the joy he felt in mentoring young teammates, and one who helped Jarrett Stidham, his presumed successor in Denver, prepare for his first start with the Broncos. .

There also happens to be a former first-round quarterback on the trade market, a player who could benefit from a year of learning from an accomplished pro and Super Bowl-winning signal caller. In trading Beckett, the Steelers opened the door to a potential trade for Chicago Bears wide receiver Justin Fields, something that seemed impossible while the organization — and more recently its general manager Omar Khan — ostensibly expressed “full faith” in their young man. , local quarterback.

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With Beckett gone, those claims can be dropped, and the Steelers have an opportunity not to restore things to the way they were, but to establish a clear path forward without any vestiges of the past.

In the two years since taking over after the 2022 draft, Khan has proven his ability to buck Steelers tradition with big-name free agent signings and trades at the deadline and during the draft. After taking a few breaths after expressing confidence in Pickett in Indianapolis two weeks ago, Khan also said the position would have “strong competition.” Although he grinned when reporters asked him about the possibility of signing free agent quarterbacks or making a trade, Khan was also clear that he had a “commitment to looking at every avenue that exists to try to make us a better football team.”

Friday was the first step.

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