If everything went right for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they’d navigate a relatively easy schedule for two weeks with Mitch Trubisky under center for victories over the moribund New England Patriots and the Gardner Minshew II-led Indianapolis Colts. Kenny Pickett would need only the minimum two weeks of the initial recovery timetable to heal up his injured ankle.
Well, that scenario may be quickly unraveling.
Per one NFL insider, some people within the organization are “bracing” themselves for the possibility that Pickett could end up missing the full four weeks while his ankle heals up.
‘The Sense Out of Pittsburgh’ Isn’t Particularly Positive on the Kenny Pickett Injury Front
Kenny Pickett’s biggest flaw is the reason he got hurt pic.twitter.com/ex1sfx7IGA
— HangTime (@HanginHeadlines) December 5, 2023
According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, “The sense out of Pittsburgh is quarterback Kenny Pickett could end up missing four weeks with that right ankle injury. I’ve talked to people who are at least bracing for that possibility.”
Just around halfway through the second quarter of the Steelers’ 24-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on December 3, Pickett scrambled toward the end zone on third-and-goal. But already operating with a taped right ankle, he was stopped short and exited the contest with a more significant injury to that lower joint.
Pickett eliminated any possibility of an in-game return when he returned to the sidelines with a boot on his right foot. Now, optimism about an expedient recovery is going by the wayside.
The quarterback underwent surgery on his ankle Monday and has already been ruled out against the Patriots on Thursday Night Football. And while it’s still possible he could take snaps against the Colts in Week 15, the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16 or the Seattle Seahawks in Week 17, that’s looking more unlikely as the reporting around his injury grows increasingly pessimistic.
Steelers Options Under Center are Limited
Granted, this was true even when Pickett was healthy, considering the team had toyed with the idea of moving him to the bench before opting to fire offensive coordinator Matt Canada and let the second-year signal-caller go to work in a different offensive scheme.
“After the Cleveland game, there was some discussion that maybe a change needed to be made at the position because of the way [Pickett] had been struggling for those three games, right up until the mess in Cleveland,” team insider Gerry Dulac reported while appearing on the 102.5 WDVE Morning Show (h/t Steelers Depot).
But Pittsburgh instead stuck with the No. 20 overall pick of the 2022 NFL draft and was rewarded with a strong showing in a November 26 win over the Bengals before disaster unfolded during the loss to the Cardinals.
Mitch Trubisky replaced Pickett under center against Arizona, completing 11 of his 17 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown in the losing effort. But the Steelers have been down this road before, and it wasn’t pretty given the 29-year-old’s inconsistent application of his arm talent.
Mason Rudolph might take on a more prominent role after spending so much time fading into the background as a third-string option operating on a seemingly ceaseless supply of one-year contracts. But legendary Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has already minced no words about that possibility.
Trace McSorley was signed to the practice squad, but the Penn State product has thrown just 93 career passes to the tune of a 48.8 quarterback rating since entering the league as a sixth-round pick in 2019 and has no familiarity with the Pittsburgh system.
Will Kenny Pickett Play Again in 2023?
If Pickett fails to take another snap during his sophomore season, he’ll finish the campaign with a 7-5 record under center for the second consecutive year. But he’ll also have failed to take many strides forward with a 62.0 completion percentage, just six touchdowns to four interceptions, 172.5 passing yards per game, an 81.4 quarterback rating and an ugly 38.1 QBR, per Pro Football Reference.
And if Fowler’s report is accurate, why would he take another snap?
Should he miss the full four weeks recovering from his ankle injury, the Steelers will have either faded away in the AFC postseason picture or remain in the thick of the wild-card conversation.
In the former scenario, the organization would have no reason to risk his long-term health with nothing to play for beyond draft positioning. In the latter, Trubisky would likely have had to look at least somewhat competent, which would make it harder to pull the plug on that tenure and go back to an option who wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire.
Either way—and again, this is contingent on Pickett not putting together a speedier-than-expected recovery process—it’s hard to see the 25-year-old suiting up against the Baltimore Ravens and their devastatingly physical defense in Week 18.