The Steelers' 2022 quarterback journey, and what happens next

Mike Tomlin sat behind the dais in the fluorescently lit room at Acrisure Stadium and spoke for three minutes.

Of the 436 words the Pittsburgh Steelers coach said, few explained why he benched Mitch Trubisky for rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett at halftime of the Steelers' 24-20 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday.

Even fewer indicated where Tomlin and the team would go from here, from a 1-3 start with a gauntlet of the NFL's best teams in front of them.

"We just thought we needed a spark," Tomlin said. "We didn't do much in the first half, not enough offensively and thought he could provide a spark for us.

"I'm not going to talk extended as we sit here. We did what we needed to do to put ourselves in position to win this game.

 We'll do it again. But I like to just keep it where we are in terms of what transpired here today. We'll deal with next week, next week."

It's what Tomlin didn't say, though, that best describes the Steelers' current predicament.

To borrow a phrase the coach introduced in August 2020, the quarterback switch is the jello they can't get back in the box.

The Kenny Pickett era is here, and there's no going back.

From the minute the former Pitt quarterback was selected with the No. 20 overall pick, it was inevitable Pickett's time would eventually arrive, perhaps sooner rather than later after a bumbling beginning for the Steelers' offense.

But it's how it arrived that's the most surprising.

After definitively saying he wasn't considering changes to his quarterback or offensive coordinator following a Week 3 Thursday night loss to the Cleveland Browns, Tomlin reaffirmed his faith in the offense in his weekly Tuesday news conference.

Known for delivering messages to his team through his media sessions, Tomlin was clear Tuesday: Shut out the noise and stay committed to the plan.

"The best way to sum up my evaluation of it, whether it's the collective unit or components of the unit, is that we've been better with every outing, and so it's reasonable to expect those improvements to continue," Tomlin said Tuesday.

"We haven't done enough to win the last two football games, so there's reason for alarm as it pertains to that, but largely I'm seeing improvements in all areas, whether it's individuals or whether it's the collective.

But there was an energy shift that pulsed through the huddle and through every crevice of Acrisure Stadium when he was in the game, the kind of buzz that has been absent through the start of the season.

Pickett threw the ball under pressure and then smiled in the face of the man who tried to sack him.

He used his legs to pick up a first down and to evade pressure and throw on the run. He shook a defender to run into the end zone.

That the offense responded to Pickett's spark isn't to be overlooked. The players thought highly enough of Trubisky to vote him a captain, but they played with -- and for -- Pickett in a way they simply hadn't for Trubisky.

When he signed with the Steelers in free agency, Trubisky was regarded as a steady leader, a respected, all-around good guy.

But the former Chicago Bear and Buffalo Bill wasn't their guy, and he never would be.

Tomlin won't commit to a quarterback for the Steelers' Week 5 game in Buffalo or beyond (a brutal stretch that includes Tampa Bay, Miami and Philadelphia),


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