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With Russell Wilson in Pittsburgh, Steelers should trade Kenny Pickett to NFC team that needs quarterback help


By signing Russell Wilson, the Pittsburgh Steelers are making good on their promise to bring in a quarterback who will challenge Kenny Pickett for the starting job. But they also may have driven Pickett out of town in the process. 

Let’s be honest: the Steelers didn’t bring Wilson in to ride the bench. They brought him in to be their next starting quarterback, with Pickett serving as insurance in the event Wilson either gets hurt or doesn’t perform. 

Given this reality, the Steelers should trade Pickett, giving them an extra draft pick and Pickett a much-needed fresh start. 

The change in perception in Pittsburgh regarding Pickett was fast and drastic. Everything appeared to change Sept. 10, when Pittsburgh laid an egg against San Francisco in Week 1. While many facets of the Steelers played poorly that day, much of the blame fell on Pickett’s shoulders. It was the start of a tumultuous season for Pickett, who for reasons outside of his control failed to live up to massive preseason expectations. 

I’m not saying all of Pickett’s shortcomings last season were outside of his control. But it’s hard to ignore the fact he was saddled with an out-matched offensive coordinator, an overrated receiving corps and an offensive line that for half the season was average at best.

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Pickett’s play improved immediately after Matt Canada’s dismissal 11 weeks into the season. But he was injured a week after his best game of the season (a Week 12 win over the Bengals) and didn’t play a snap for the remainder of the year after Mason Rudolph took over the reins of the offense in Week 16. 

Rudolph, like Pickett was starting to, played well down the stretch while enforcing a trend: the Steelers were 10-3 in games either Pickett or Rudolph finished last season and 0-4 in games finished by Mitch Trubisky (not including Pittsburgh’s blowout loss to Houston during which Trubisky came in during garbage time).  

Speaking of Rudolph, the Steelers should sign him, trade Pickett and either draft or acquire two other quarterbacks via the draft or in free agency (the fourth QB would be a camp arm as Pittsburgh always carries four quarterbacks during the summer). Rudolph, who reportedly has interest in returning to the Steelers, would fill Pickett’s role as the in-house “challenger” to Wilson. 

It’s not like the Steelers wouldn’t get anything for Pickett. The Vikings, for example, would likely give up a mid-to-late-round pick to acquire him. In Minnesota, Pickett would be in an actual position battle against Sam Darnold, who was recently signed to help replace Kirk Cousins. Pickett would be reunited in Minnesota with wideout Jordan Addison, whom he enjoyed a tremendous amount of success with at Pitt. 

Sure, many will consider the last two seasons a waste if the Steelers trade Pickett. But by signing Wilson, the Steelers have basically already admitted as much. It’s no secret Pittsburgh has not done a great job when it comes to handling the quarterback position since 2021. 

The Steelers pseudo tried to force Ben Roetblisberger into retirement that year by giving him the choice to come back at a reduced salary while playing behind a revamped offensive line (that included a rookie starting left tackle). Roethlisberger decided to come back under those terms, and the result was a tough season that ended with a first-round playoff exit in Kansas City. 

Roethlisberger retired that offseason, and the Steelers quickly signed Trubisky before drafting Pickett. The addition of both players created an odd dynamic that ultimately hindered both players. Trubisky wilted under the pressure of playing on a short leash, and Pickett was thrust into a situation he wasn’t ready for. 

Pickett recovered from a rocky start and helped Pittsburgh to a 9-8 finish, buoying expectations for himself and the Steelers entering 2023. But those expectations weren’t met, largely because of the Steelers’ decision to retain Canada. Everyone suffered from that decision, especially Pickett. 

The Steelers shouldn’t compound recent mistakes by keeping Pickett. They should instead trade him, giving him a much-needed re-set and going all-in on Wilson.  





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