PITTSBURGH — It has become abundantly clear that the Steelers want to play the long game with Kenny Pickett.
I would have thought differently on draft day, when they were elated to snag the soon-to-be-24-year-old Pickett with the 20th pick.
It's not like they had an established star in front of him. They didn't even have a starter in front of him. Not from 2021, anyway (although I happen to be a Mitch Trubisky defender).
Now, I didn't think Pickett would get the keys to the franchise on Day 1 of camp, like Joe Burrow in Cincinnati two years ago. But I thought he'd at least get a chance to compete for the starting job, like Mac Jones in New England last season.
Jones — who is younger than Pickett, by the way — beat out Cam Newton, then had a good rookie season and led the Patriots to the playoffs. He is undoubtedly better for the experience. So are the Patriots.
Pickett? He's listed third on the Steelers' depth chart, scrounging for reps behind Mason Rudolph and having zero chance to start the opener in Cincinnati.
And here I thought Malik Willis was the long-term project pick.
Wasn't Pickett the guy who started games in five different college seasons?
Things could change quickly. They did for Ben Roethlisberger in his rookie season. But at least he was a backup to begin the year. For now, it appears there is at least a chance — if the Steelers keep Rudolph — that Pickett will be packed away for his rookie year, not even in position to gain valuable backup reps in practice.
We'll see how that plays out, but we can probably count on this much: Pickett will see his first game action in a Steelers uniform Saturday night against the Seattle Seahawks.