It's been nearly 18 years since the Pittsburgh Steelers had a quarterback competition.
The post-Ben Roethlisberger era offers one of the biggest storylines ahead of the 2022 season, and it got even more intriguing following the 2022 NFL Draft.
After selecting Kenny Pickett with the No. 20 overall pick, the Steelers added a third QB to the mix. The hometown rookie will join Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph for what's expected to be a heated contest, one that head coach Mike Tomlin sees as a challenge despite his excitement.
"I expect it to be fierce because I know all three guys. I don't expect anyone to take a backseat," Tomlin told NFL Network's Rich Eisen on The Rich Eisen Show Wednesday. "The challenge is from a structure standpoint. Are we providing enough of a platform for all the guys to show what they're capable of? And so that's going to be the challenge component of it. I'm excited about watching these guys compete, just like I am at any position where you've got some viable options. So, we will proceed with that understanding that it's going to be challenging from an organization standpoint, but it's a good challenge and I'm excited about watching those guys perform."
Following Roethlisberger's retirement, the Steelers signed Trubisky to a two-year deal and he likely enters this summer as the favorite considering his overall experience. The former first-round pick signed on expecting competition as he looks to regain a starting job after serving as the Bills' backup QB for one season.
Rudolph is the only returning Steeler of the bunch and may have a slight edge having already learned offensive coordinator Matt Canada's system last season. The 26-year-old has logged 10 starts in his three seasons, producing 2,366 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a 5-4-1 record.
Tomlin has already stated Pickett "certainly has a chance" at being the Week 1 starter as a rookie. The Pitt product earned the right of becoming the first QB taken off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft after a breakout senior season where he set school records with 4,319 passing yards and 42 TDs.
Deciphering the amount of first-team reps among the three during training camp and in the preseason will be the challenge Tomlin alluded to, but he doesn't see a rookie entering the fray as an issue for his QB room. It's a situation that recently garnered attention in Tennessee after Ryan Tannehill said it wasn't his job to mentor Malik Willis.
"It's good when it occurs but it's certainly not necessary," Tomlin said. "That's why we have offensive coordinators, quarterback coaches, assistant quarterback coaches. People are employed and their sole focus is the development of players. Certainly there's growth and development opportunities and learning opportunities among players, but it is definitely not their function. Their function is to have themselves ready to go and be good teammates, and I think that's probably what you speak to just in terms of providing common human decency and courtesy to someone if you can help them along the way. I'm sure Ryan (Tannehill) is open to that, but I think he was just stating the obvious that he's not employed to do that. He's employed to play quarterback."