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#pounditThursday, May 30, 2024

Steelers owner sends clear message about team’s QB situation

Kenny Pickett throws a pass during practice

May 13, 2022; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) participates in drills during Rookie Minicamp at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers seem open to giving Kenny Pickett another shot to prove he can win games as a starting quarterback in the NFL, but team owner Art Rooney II wants to see a significant leap from the former first-round pick in 2024.

Rooney spoke with the media this week and addressed a number of questions about the current state of the Steelers. He had a clear message about the quarterback position.

“We need to do everything we can to make sure we get quality play out of our quarterback position going forward,” Rooney said, per Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Pickett’s first two NFL years were underwhelming, to say the least. He suffered an ankle injury this past season and eventually lost his job to Mason Rudolph, who helped get the Steelers to the playoffs and then started in the team’s Wild Card Round loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Pickett finished the season with 2,070 yards, 6 touchdown passes and 4 interceptions in 12 games. He threw 7 touchdowns compared to 9 interceptions as a rookie in 2022. The second-year leap never happened, but Rooney said he remains optimistic.

“We still feel good about Kenny Pickett and his future,” the 71-year-old added. “He knows he needs to work hard to take the next step, and we’ve talked about that. One of the things we liked about Kenny in terms of his career at Pitt was how hard he worked. He took a step every year. We’re looking for that to happen here.”

Rudolph is set to become a free agent, and both Rooney and Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin have said they would like to bring the veteran back. Pickett is going to have to compete for a starting job in training camp with Rudolph or someone else.

Even after Rudolph took over as the Steelers’ starter, the team seemed to make an effort to protect Pickett’s feelings. While Pickett still has Rooney’s support, 2024 is shaping up to be a make-or-break year for the quarterback.

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