At the start of training camp, Mike Tomlin said that he and the Steelers‘ coaching staff would not micromanage the competition at quarterback. Pittsburgh’s head coach said that knowing full well that that would be exactly what the media — and therefore fans of the team — would and will continue to do over the course of the summer.
It can’t be stated enough that we’re in the very early stages of training camp. The pads come on on Monday, and that will add an entirely different element to practice and therefore the Steelers’ quarterback competition. But there were a few things from the first few days of camp that are notable regarding Pittsburgh’s quarterback situation.
Mitch Trubisky remains in the driver’s seat
The projected starter before camp, the former Bears Pro Bowler remains the favorite to be under center when Pittsburgh kicks off the regular season in Cincinnati on September 11. While it hasn’t been a perfect camp, Trubisky had a solid performance during Seven Shots, a seven-play drill that challenges the offense to score from the 3-yard-line.
Trubisky led the offense on the first seven plays of Seven Shots. On those plays, he fired scoring passes to Chase Claypool, Anthony Miller, Zach Gentry, as the offense took a 3-1 lead (h/t Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider). Trubisky also threw an interception, but it occurred after the pass was juggled by his intended target. After a less than idea first day of camp, Trubisky played better on Thursday, with his decisiveness among the main improvements from the prior day.
Mason Rudolph helping his cause
The most experienced quarterback as far as knowing the Steelers’ offense, Rudolph authored the most impressive throw during Pittsburgh’s first day of camp, a downfield completion to new Steelers wideout Gunner Olszewski. Rookie Calvin Austin’s long touchdown also came from a pass from Rudolph.
But while Trubisky’s decisiveness was on display on Thursday, it was the opposite case for Rudolph, particularly during Seven Shots. Rudolph completed one of his three attempts and was nearly intercepted on his first attempt. His one completion did give the offense a 4-3 win during the first Seven Shots of training camp.
Following Friday’s practice, Rudolph received a vote of confidence from Claypool, who feels that Rudolph is and will continue to get a fair shake as it relates to winning the starting job.
“It’s crazy how accurate he is,” Claypool said of Rudolph, via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor. “He doesn’t get enough praise and attention. He’s just as in the running as each of those guys.”
Kenny Pickett is the clear third-string QB
There’s a clear gap between Pickett and the two quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart. This is largely expected, as Pickett is a rookie while Trubisky and Rudolph are beginning their sixth and fifth NFL training camps, respectively. While he is undoubtedly going through some growing pains, The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly observed that Pickett’s first days of camp were significantly better than Rudolph’s first initial camp practices as a rookie in 2018.
Mobility is one advantage Pickett has over Trubisky and Rudolph. He put that on display during the first two days of training camp, and Pickett will surely continue to lean on his athleticism as he continues to get acclimated to his new surroundings.
Quiet start for Chris Oladokun
The Steelers’ last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Oladokun did not received a single rep with Pittsburgh’s first-team offense during the first two days of camp. It’s clear that Oladokun has his work cut out for him if he is going to have any shot at making the 53-man roster. It would take a strong preseason from him and either an injury or a drastic drop-off in play from Rudolph for Oladokun to make the cut.
A strong training camp, however, may convince the Steelers to give Oladokun a spot on the practice squad. Pittsburgh benefitted by having a QB on the practice squad back in 2019, when several injuries prompted the team to promote Devlin Hodges from the practice squad to the starting lineup.