This is not Mike Tomlin’s first rodeo. As he began his 16th training camp as the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ head coach, the 50-year-old Tomlin knew that the media focus would be on Pittsburgh’s quarterback situation. For the first time in over 20 years, the Steelers have an actual position battle at starting quarterback between Mitchell Trubisky, rookie Kenny Pickett, and fifth-year veteran Mason Rudolph.
While a starting position will be earned during camp, Tomlin and the Steelers aren’t in a rush to anoint Ben Roethlisberger’s successor. The Steelers are more than willing to let things play out over the course of their time at Saint Vincent College.
“We’re not going to micromanage or over manage this quarterback competition,” Tomlin told the media on Tuesday, shortly after the team arrived in Latrobe. “The depth chart will not rest on every throw. I know that you guys 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 over manage it, to not be too impulsive, and so that’s what I relate to those guys, and our actions will continue to display that mindset.”
When asked about Pickett’s on-field leadership, Tomlin said that the rookie’s lack of pro experience will hinder his ability to lead a football team. Unlike other quarterback prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft, Tomlin was able to observe Pickett’s leadership skills during his time at the University of Pittsburgh. The Panthers and Steelers sharing a training facility gave Tomlin and Pickett an opportunity to develop a rapport that undoubtedly contributed to the Steelers’ decision to select him with the 20th overall pick.
“I think that you know, when you’re 22, 23, 24 years old, you’ve been playing quarterback all your life, you understand those informal responsibilities that come with a position,” Tomlin said. “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 about those 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 gonna be a significant discussion.”
Tomlin also isn’t concerned about splitting reps between quarterbacks during camp. Along with Trubisky, Pickett and Rudolph, seventh-round pick Chris Oladokun will also get reps over the course of the summer. The Steelers typically have four quarterbacks during camp, and this summer is no exception.
“I think about every year we’ve been here, we’ve carried four guys in the camp and there’s been some rep management things to address from that perspective,” Tomlin said. “We’ve got four quarterbacks we generally run in three groups. So there’s some things to manage from a rep standpoint. But again, that has been the case for 15 years or 16 years that I’ve been here.”
As it currently stands, Trubisky is the favorite to be the starting quarterback when Pittsburgh heads to Cincinnati on September 11. Rudolph is technically considered the primary backup, given his experience in the Steelers’ offense. Pickett, who largely ran with the third-team offense during minicamp, will undoubtedly get his chances to work with the first-team offense during the course of camp. And while he isn’t in the running to be the starting quarterback, Oladokun will do his best to challenge Rudolph for a spot of the 53-man roster.
As far as the Steelers’ former quarterback is concerned, Tomlin was still asked Roethlisberger during Tuesday’s presser. Specifically, Tomlin was asked if there were any training stories that came to mind regarding Roethlisberger.
“I enjoyed going by Ben’s room,” Tomlin said. “Ben is one of those guys that brought the comforts of home to Latrobe (laughs). He spared no expense or amenity. I walked into that room today and I laughed because Cam Heyward is in that room now, but it’s less comfortable, I’ll say that. Cam is somewhat of a caveman.”