All eyes on Pittsburgh Steelers QB battle as camp opens, just ask Mitch Trubisky

Mitch Trubisky seems to have established an early chemistry with rookie receiver George Pickens, and every throw -- at least early in camp -- is being scrutinized. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

LATROBE, Pa. -- Mike Tomlin isn’t evaluating the Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback competition on a throw-by-throw basis, but that’s not stopping fans from hyper-analyzing the race to replace Ben Roethlisberger.

After two straight incomplete throws by Mitch Trubisky to open the first 11-on-11 team period of the 2022 training camp on Wednesday, a fan sitting in the stands at St. Vincent's Chuck Noll Field yelled, “Get Pickett in there!”

Tomlin, of course, didn't grant the fan's wishes by replacing the veteran with rookie Kenny Pickett for first-team reps, but if Day 1 of Steelers training camp is any indication, the quarterback race will be under a microscope -- at least externally -- until Tomlin names a starter.

"Not yet," Tomlin said with a grin when asked if he was ready to name a starter. "Ask me tomorrow."

Don't bet on an answer then, either. Tomlin's process of determining a winner of the quarterback derby will be lengthy.

"We're not going to micromanage or overmanage this quarterback competition," the Steelers coach said Tuesday. "The depth chart will not rest on every throw. I know that you guys will want to ask me every day and every throw, but we're going to be a little bit more steady than that.

"I think it's important from a leadership perspective to not overmanage it, to not be too impulsive, so that's what I've relayed to those guys, and our actions will continue to display that mindset."

Wednesday, Trubisky took all first-team reps, followed by Mason Rudolph with the second team and Pickett with the third. Fellow rookie quarterback Chris Oladokun didn't take any team reps. In the opening 11-on-11 period, a series of third-down plays, Trubisky completed 1-of-4 attempts, while Rudolph connected on all four and Pickett went 2-of-4.

"I saw good work and attentiveness and good communication," Tomlin said. "We're crawling. I can tell you guys some things, but it's the early portion of the process and I appreciate their attentiveness and professionalism. They'll continue to write their stories and sort themselves out."

Trubisky, who began his career as a heavily scrutinized Chicago Bears' first-round pick in 2017, likes Tomlin's holistic approach.

"He wants us to go out there and play free, and he told us that," Trubisky said. "So you're not worried about every single throw, and it's practice. You've got to go out there, you've got to test throws. You've got to let guys go make plays. ... That's just part of the territory when it comes to quarterback. You're not holding your head on every single throw anyway, so you just gotta let it go, go out there and play. When you're not thinking about it, that's when you're playing out your best, anyway."

Though Trubisky's afternoon got off to a rocky start, he had a couple nice throws later in the day, including one 45-yard completion to rookie wide receiver George Pickens on the sideline. Pickett, meanwhile, ended practice with the first interception of camp when he underthrew a deep ball and it was picked off by rookie Carlins Platel.

While Trubisky's chemistry with Pickens was obvious, the quarterback didn't have one of the Steelers' top wide receivers with him at Wednesday's practice. Though Diontae Johnson reported to camp while hoping for a new contract, the receiver didn't participate in any team activities. Instead, he worked one-on-one with a coach during team periods and live throwing periods.

"I obviously want to be out there, but you know, certain circumstances, it's just part of a part of the business," Johnson said. "I'm just gonna let that take care of itself."