Here we go ! Steelers QB derby begins in earnest


LATROBE, Pa. (AP) – Mike Tomlin thinks there’s already enough unspoken pressure on Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolf and Kenny Pickett. He sees no need to add more. At least not yet.

That’s why for a long time Pittsburgh Steelers the coach is in no rush to announce a starting quarterback. Or spend the next six weeks giving daily updates on who might be in the lead to replace retired Ben Roethlisberger.

Tomlin knows the situation ain’t gonna do on twitter or Internet or radio or talk shows about sports, but the practice field. It’s a process that Tomlin admits is both scary and exciting, not just for him, but also for the three players vying for the enviable but daunting right to take over for a two-time Super Bowl winner, likely in road to the Hall of Fame.

That’s a lot to ask, which is why Tomlin is in no rush. He wants Trubisky, Rudolph and Pickett to have the freedom to be themselves. So he won’t overreact to every throw, good or bad.

“I think it’s important from a leadership perspective not to over-manage, not to be too impulsive,” he said.

So it won’t be. While there seemed to be a very definite pecking order in Wednesday’s first practice — Trubisky working with starters, Rudolph with backups and Pickett with the third rope during a 90-minute practice session at St. Vincent College in helmets and shorts – Tomlin just laughed when he was then jokingly asked if he was ready to announce a starter.

“I’m not,” he said with a smile. “But ask me tomorrow.”

While Tomlin may laugh at the situation, it’s not quite the same for Trubisky, Rudolph, or Pickett. All three came to training camp at different stages of their careers.

For Trubisky, Pittsburgh offers a chance to reset five years after Chicago traded to take him with the second overall pick in the 2017 draft. For Rudolph, the next month or so represents an opportunity to prove he can start — if not. in Pittsburgh, then elsewhere. Pickett, meanwhile, is trying to play the part of a dedicated rookie while simultaneously dealing with the inflated expectations that are part of the deal when you’re a quarterback taken in the first round.

Day one was a mixed bag of sorts. Trubisky missed his first three assists in 11-on-11 but recovered later. Rudolph started abruptly before stopping. The final pass in Pickett’s first practice at training camp as a pro ended with an interception that floated into the hands of undrafted rookie free agent cornerback Carlins Platel, who celebrated by throwing the ball in the air like a clay pigeon and pretending to knock it down.

Welcome to the NFL kid.

As Trubisky understands it, every snap is part of the growth process, regardless of how that snap turns out.

“You gotta go out there and test throws, you gotta let the guys make plays,” Trubisky said. “You have to go out there and not worry about every pitch. That’s part of the territory when it comes to quarterbacking, you don’t hold your head on every pitch anyway. so you gotta drop it, go out there and play.

Trubisky has the battle scars to prove it. Five years ago, he was where Pickett is now, a freshman quarterback struggling with the return of a marquee franchise. Things never really clicked in Chicago. They could do it in Pittsburgh, though there’s just as much chance Trubisky will be just a placeholder until Pickett is deemed ready to take over.

All of this leaves Rudolph in an unenviable position. The team’s longest-serving quarterback has a history with offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Yet the team also brought in two top players in the offseason rather than just giving him the offense. He is in the last year of his contract, which also makes his place extremely precarious. And Rodolphe knows it.

“I think you always try to cancel outside noise, whether it’s from a coach, the media or the fans,” Rudolph said. “So I’m going to say, I’m going to go out and treat every rep like it’s the last.”

At some point later this summer, it could very well be. At least in Pittsburgh. Still, Rudolph does what he can to avoid playing the numbers game in his head. The months of useless chatter are over. One of the NFL’s most intriguing quarterback battles has begun.

“I know all I need is a chance to compete,” Rudolph said. “And that’s what I have to get today, tomorrow and the rest of the camp and make the most of it.”

NOTES: Pro Bowl WR Diontae Johnson did not participate in the team’s practice game on Wednesday as it tries to agree to a new contract. Johnson, who is in the final year of his rookie contract, said he wants to stay with the Steelers but added “it’s up to them.” … FROM Larry Ogunjobi has been restricted as he recovers from foot surgery.

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