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Steelers trading QB Kenny Pickett to Eagles, clearing way for Russell Wilson to start

Pittsburgh's signing of Russell Wilson prompted an unexpected end to Kenny Pickett's tenure in the Steel City.

The Steelers are expected to trade Pickett and a fourth-round draft pick (No. 120) to the Philadelphia Eagles, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Friday. Pittsburgh will receive a third-round pick (No. 98) and the Eagles' highest two seventh-round draft picks in the deal, Rapoport added.

Josina Anderson of CBS Sports first reported the news.

Pickett asked for a trade in the aftermath of learning of Wilson's signing through social media on Sunday night and being told Monday morning by Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin that Wilson would get first-team reps in the pole position to be QB1, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported. Tomlin had previously told Pickett he'd have a chance to compete for the starting job, according to Pelissero.

Pickett arrived to the Steelers with about as minimal moving effort as possible. After starring at the University of Pittsburgh, all the 2022 20th-overall pick had to do was move his things from one side of UPMC Rooney Sports Complex to the other, seemingly making for a storybook succession plan following Ben Roethlisberger's retirement.

Such a pairing never worked out as intended. Pickett began his rookie season as a backup to Mitchell Trubisky, but found himself in the heat of NFL battle by Week 4 when Tomlin called on him to replace the struggling Trubisky. From there through the midway point of the 2023 season, Pickett remained the team's starter, but he struggled to find consistency in both performance and availability, with numerous injuries costing him playing time.

The most damning sign that the Pickett era might be close to an end came when Tomlin decided to proceed with veteran backup Mason Rudolph over a healthy Pickett in the final month of the Steelers' 2023 season, which saw Rudolph lead Pittsburgh to an unlikely playoff berth. The series of events threw the entire quarterback situation into the waters of uncertainty entering 2024, leading the Steelers to sign the recently released Wilson in March.

Pittsburgh apparently being intent to start Wilson in the upcoming season has now led to the decision to trade Pickett. He won't have a chance to start in Philadelphia, either, where franchise quarterback Jalen Hurts is firmly entrenched as QB1 entering 2024.

Pickett's struggles in Pittsburgh will never fully be blamed solely on the quarterback. He spent a season and a half playing under embattled offensive coordinator Matt Canada, whose ineptitude as a play-caller enraged Steelers fans and finally forced Tomlin to fire him during the 2024 season. Pickett showed glimpses of immediate improvement in the post-Canada world, but wasn't able to stay on the field long enough to prove it was Canada, not Pickett that was the problem under center.

Steelers fans will never know the truth, and will instead gear up for a 2024 season with Wilson leading the way at quarterback. Pickett, meanwhile, will prepare to hold a clipboard and soak up as much wisdom as possible from Hurts, head coach Nick Sirianni and the rest of the Eagles in what is shaping up to be an important season for the 2022 NFC champions.

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