Coach Mike Tomlin confirmed Kenny Pickett had a surgical procedure on Monday for a high-ankle sprain designed to accelerate his return, but he did not speculate how soon his second-year quarterback might play again.
Tomlin would not put a timetable on Pickett's return, only to say "rest assured he is out" for Thursday night's home game against the New England. However, the Steelers are hopeful he can return by the end of the month.
Tomlin said there is no concern Pickett's injury is season-ending
"He had it surgically repaired in an effort to accelerate the healing process," Tomlin said at his weekly press conference.
Pickett had what is known as a "tightrope" procedure, a relatively new innovation that is used to treat high-ankle sprains by inserting high-strength sutures into the bone. He is expected to be out two to four weeks, according to team sources.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had a similar surgery when he was at Alabama and returned less than a month later to play in the college playoff semifinal.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurt also had the surgery when he was at Alabama and returned within four weeks.
With Pickett out, Mitch Trubisky will start against the Patriots — his first start since Week 14 last season when he led the Steelers to a 24-16 victory in Carolina. He is 2-3 in five career starts with the Steelers.
"Given time to prepare, one man's misfortune is another man's opportunity," Tomlin said. "Those are words we live by. I don't anticipate it being an issue, given an opportunity to prepare for this next outing."
Pickett was injured in the second quarter when he scrambled for a 2-yard gain near the goal line in Sunday's 24-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. He was replaced by Trubisky and did not return to the game.
It was the fifth time already in his young career that Pickett has either missed a start or been replaced in a game because of injuries. Tomlin said Pickett had been dealing with a previous ankle injury but is not concerned the 6-foot-3, 220-pound quarterback is prone to injury.
"Not as I sit here today," Tomlin said. "It got aggravated and we just did what was necessary in terms of addressing it. I don't know that we're viewing it as something that's chronic. We're just dealing with this on a case-by-case basis."
Before he was injured, Pickett was 7 of 10 for 70 yards that included a 38-yard completion to receiver George Pickens on the third play of the game, setting up a field goal.
Trubisky, who appeared for two plays in the first half, was 11 of 17 for 117 yards and led the Steelers on their only touchdown drive with 4:25 remaining.
Pickett's injury also elevates Mason Rudolph to the No. 2 position for at least the next two games and potentially longer. Tomlin said he has "options" about adding a third emergency quarterback to the roster. On Monday, at least, the team signed former Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley to its practice squad
"He's been a franchise quarterback before," Tomlin said of Trubisky. "He's comfortable in those shoes. He doesn't behave like a backup that's being elevated."
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