In the time since the Pittsburgh Steelers, there have been a wide range of opinions shared about the team’s quarterback situation. Four different QBs have been brought up by different analysts as the potential answer at the position. Mike Tomlin claimed that the team’s QB is already on the roster during his press conference at the end of the season.
Diontae Johnson threw support behind bringing Mason Rudolph back. Now controversial former Steelers receiver Antonio Brown has given his opinion on his old team’s quarterback situation. Brown invited Twitter users to”Ask AB.” One user asked him who his QB would be and how many targets per game George Pickens would get if he was the offensive coordinator for the Steelers.
Brown chose Rudolph and said he’d have his QB throwing to Pickens at least 16 times per game.
While Rudolph performed well to close out the 2023 regular season, making him the starting quarterback next season could be a problem for the Steelers.
The Issue the Steelers Face
When the Steelers decided to stick with Rudolph as their QB to finish out the 2023 season, they had an easy way to explain how it didn’t mean that they had given up on Kenny Pickett.
They were just sticking with the hot hand.If the Steelers were to re-sign him and make him the starter for Week 1 of the 2024 season, they would be admitting defeat on their investment in Pickett. That would be a difficult pill to swallow just two seasons after the team spent the 20th overall pick on the struggling QB.
It would also be a move with limited upside.
Yes, Rudolph won the last three games of the regular season to make the playoffs, but the team was already likely on track to make the playoffs before Pickett was injured. He posted a 7-5 record as the starter before his injury opened the door for Rudolph. 10-7 with a playoff exit in the first round wasn’t really an improvement over what the team was getting from Pickett.
That is also probably the ceiling for them with Rudolph. If the team decided to make a move for a veteran that they felt could lead them on a playoff run, then giving up on Pickett might be something the front office and fans can live with. Another season with nine or ten wins and an early playoff exit just doesn’t seem like enough.
If that or giving Pickett one more shot to prove he can lead the team are the options, hoping Pickett either succeeds or does badly enough to set the Steelers up to draft his replacement feels like the better choice.
Getting Pickens More Involved
One thing that Brown did get right, is that the Steelers need to get Pickens involved more frequently. Four targets per quarter is asking a bit much, but he definitely needs to see more of the ball. Over the course of the 2023 season, Pickens was targeted just 106 times in 17 games. That’s just over six targets per game and is shockingly low for a player that ended up with 1140 yards for the year.
It’s an issue with the Steelers’ scheme more than an issue with the team’s QB play. The Jets’ QBs were awful in 2023. Garrett Wilson was still targeted 168 times. Fans complained endlessly about the way that Arthur Smith misused his weapons with the Falcons. Drake London still got 110 targets from a pair of disappointing QBs in 16 games.
Pickens made it clear that he can be a bonafide WR1 during the 2023 season.
Whoever ends up as the Steelers’ next offensive coordinator, they need to use Pickens like he is an elite option in 2024 if their offense is going to improve.