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Kenny Pickett was the Steelers' guy all along, even though the media made it appear like it was Malik Willis. The Steelers believe Pickett is the most pro ready quarterback in this year's draft class. Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert raved about his maturity, competitiveness and leadership. So, will Kenny Pickett start in Year 1? Judging by history, it will be rare if Pickett starts in Week 1, as Terry Bradshaw is the only rookie quarterback to start in the opener.
Pickett turns 24 in June. He's three months younger than Justin Herbert, who's entering his third season in the NFL. I don't think it's unrealistic to believe Pickett should start right away. In an interview on the NFL Network on Saturday, Tomlin said Pickett has a chance to be the Week 1 starter: “Yeah he certainly has a chance. … We felt he came ready made and hopefully that’s an asset to him being ready — if performance dictates."
Pickett had a spectacular 2021 season, throwing for 4,319 yards and 42 touchdowns, along with leading Pitt to the ACC Championship. He also won the Johnny Unitas Award, given annually to the nation’s top upperclassman quarterback, and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
“Kenny’s just a mature, even-keeled guy,” Colbert said. “He obviously had a great senior year, and it just talks and preaches what you can do if you stay [in school] and develop into a first-round pick. He’s special."
Barstool Sportsbook believes Pickett will beat out Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph for the starting job, as they have Pickett as the favorite to win Offensive Player of the Year at +500.
Chris Simms thinks Pickett is a better version of Jared Goff. Derek Car, Tony Romo and Kirk Cousins have been other common NFL comparisons to Pickett. Of course, Pickett will have to earn the QB1 title, but given his age and maturity, I don't think the Steelers should be hell-bent on having 2022 be a redshirt year for him. If he doesn't start this year, he'll essentially be a 25-year-old rookie in 2023.