Share & Comment:

Opinions can change, especially when draped in Black & Gold

What a week for the Pittsburgh Steelers, especially at the quarterback position. Yes, the Steelers made their largest free-agent signing in franchise history when they added line back to Patrick Queen, but the turnover at the quarterback position just within the last week is unlike anything Steelers fans have seen.

When it came to thoughts of how the Steelers should handle quarterback for 2024 and beyond, the opinions were widespread. There are options that made sense and others that did not. As things developed, options that didn’t make sense suddenly did. The entire landscape of the position was changing drastically, and opinions about what the Steelers should do or how fans embraced the changes were changing as well.

Last Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers had one quarterback on the roster: Kenny Pickett. For most of the week, it was known the Steelers had two quarterbacks on the roster but it was not made official until Friday: Kenny Pickett and Russell Wilson. Hours later and due to a requested trade by Pickett, the Steelers had one quarterback on the roster: Russell Wilson. Now because of the trade on Saturday evening, the Steelers are back to having two quarterbacks on the roster: Russell Wilson and Justin Fields.

To say it’s been a crazy week for the quarterback position of the Pittsburgh Steelers would be quite the understatement.

Going back a couple weeks, I got on board with the Steelers bringing in Russell Wilson. Our inside source had told us that the Steelers were not interested in paying for the likes of a Kirk Cousins or giving up the high draft capital it would take at that time to acquire Justin Fields. If Mason Rudolph was not retained, we were told to look for Russell Wilson to be in play. Outside of the Wilson situation coming before Mason Rudolph had his chance to test free agency, it’s pretty much how it played out.

I was on board with things. Having Russell Wilson raises the bar of quarterback play. While some people believe this, others do not. Ultimately the level of quarterback play from Wilson in a Steelers uniform is something that remains to be seen until these players take the field.

At the same time, one opinion I was not ready to change on was on thing in particular dealing with Kenny Pickett. Before the Steelers even selected a quarterback in the first round of the 2022 draft, the issue of how long it would take to really get a gauge on any player selected was discussed on a number of our podcasts. A general consensus, and my personal opinion, was if the Steelers draft a quarterback in the first round, it was a three-year commitment. Even if the quarterback played great, they needed to sustain it for three years to really have it take hold. If the play was subpar, the player needed three years to show that improvements were coming. I’ve continued to hold this timeline, despite many others wavering their opinions after games let alone seasons, based on how successful franchises evaluate their top draft picks at the quarterback position.

I didn’t know if Kenny Pickett would show he could outplay Russell Wilson, but I felt the Steelers would give him every opportunity. I was in complete agreement with Coach Tomlin in his end-of-the-year press conference when he said this was a big year ahead for Kenny Pickett. The Steelers were going to have to make a decision on the fifth-year option following the 2024 season. By that time, the Steelers needed to make the decision if he was the guy or he wasn’t. If Pickett wasn’t able to earn playing time ahead of a 36-year-old Russell Wilson, then the Steelers had their definitive answer.

But the Steelers got their answer anyway.

When Kenny Pickett was bent out of shape about the situation, and made what I assumed to be a poor, knee-jerk reaction and requested a trade, the answer was obvious. If Pickett wasn’t ready to fight for the job and prove that he could bring a higher level of play to the quarterback position, then he definitively was not the guy. Rather than prove it, he surrendered.

Because I focus on the logo on the front of the jersey rather than the name on the back, I don’t plan on talking about Kenny Pickett much more after this. If Pickett felt the fans, his teammates, and the front office had turned on him, then that’s his prerogative. Is he in a better situation to earn playing time based on his ability and not injury? I don’t see how that’s the case one bit. This could play out to be a very poor career move for Pickett unless circumstances change drastically that likely are not in his control. What’s more important is that the short-lived Kenny Pickett era in Pittsburgh is over and it is now time to look at what is in front of the Pittsburgh Steelers and not behind them.

But with the changing of the quarterback situation of who is no longer in Pittsburgh, it changed other circumstances that previously didn’t seem to be the best option. I was not on board with Justin Fields coming to Pittsburgh before the start of the league year for two main reasons, one of which was having a second quarterback where a decision on a fifth-year option needed to be made. With that no longer being an issue, I was more on board with Fields coming to the Steelers but was still not convinced it was their best option for the other reason I didn’t want him in the first place— giving up needed draft capital to help continue to build this team for 2024. I went a little more into detail about things on the breaking news podcast with Jeff Hartman and Bryan Davis on Saturday morning when our source and told us, unlike before, Justin Fields was now very much in play after the trade of Kenny Pickett.

Acquiring Fields made so much more sense than it did a week before. But I was still hung up on the draft pick(s). When the trade was first announced, I was very anxious about what the Steelers gave up to get Justin Fields. Minutes later when it was reported the Steelers were giving up no picks for 2024 and it was only a sixth-round draft pick in 2025 which could improve to a fourth-round pick if Fields plays 51% of the snaps next season, I was stunned. In a matter of a week, both of the major hangups I had about Justin Fields (although I am still cautious about the history of Ohio State quarterbacks succeeding in the NFL) were gone.

Obviously my opinion has changed about the Steelers quarterback situation in the last week. I went from having Russell Wilson as being a player to set a higher standard for evaluating the Steelers third-year quarterback to be excited about Wilson now being the starter and having a viable backup as the option in case of injury or if things simply aren’t working out. Things that didn’t make sense the previous week were now the right moves for general Manager Omar Khan to pull off, and he did so in a manner so much better than my expectations. The Steelers now have a backup quarterback option that will cost them less than the top remaining options on the open market are projected to cost.

There are some people who are more about their own opinions and being correct than it is about the success of the Pittsburgh Steelers. If that’s the way you want to be, then that’s the way it is. But for me, I’m all about the success of the Black & Gold. As I said many times, I didn’t care about who was the quarterback for the Steelers in 2024, but that they were getting great play. At first my standard was I simply wanted them to “not suck,” but now I’ve taken expectations to the next level.  A player who I was adamantly against one week prior was able to come to the Steelers in a way that erased most of my concerns and now has me excited. If you were someone who felt the way I did, I welcome you to join me in changing your opinion on specific players and to look forward to the Steelers 2024 season being the best it can be.



Sign up below for the latest news, stories and podcasts from our affiliates

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.