Steelers QB Pickett to play if he clears concussion protocol

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Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) is helped on the field after being injured during the second half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett will practice on Wednesday and will play next Sunday night against Miami if he clears the NFL's concussion protocol.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that Pickett will have “no restrictions” in practice this week and the plan is to stick with Pickett if he's available rather than turn to backup Mitch Trubisky, who played well in relief of Pickett in a 20-18 victory over Tampa Bay last week.

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“If Kenny Pickett is cleared to play, he’ll play,” Tomlin said.

Pickett left in the third quarter against the Buccaneers after being legally knocked to the ground by Tampa Bay linebacker Devin White. He lay on the Acrisure Stadium turf for several moments, stood up but then sat back down as officials ordered members of Pittsburgh's medical staff to tend to Pickett.

The 20th overall pick in the draft made his way to the sideline and then to the training room for the examination and did not return. Trubisky, who was benched for Pickett at halftime of a loss to the New York Jets on Oct. 2, passed for 144 yards and a touchdown as the Steelers (2-4) snapped a four-game losing streak.

Tomlin praised Trubisky for his contributions, but has no plans to go back to Trubisky if Pickett is good to go.

“We’re not going to blow in the wind,” Tomlin said. “We’re going to be somewhat steady. I’ve been consistent in my messaging regarding the decision-making at that position. I think it helps those that are playing. I think it helps the team in terms of who to follow. And we’re not going to flip the script now."

Pickett completed 11 of 18 passes for 67 yards and his first NFL touchdown pass before leaving. The former University of Pittsburgh star is 55 of 83 for 514 yards with a touchdown and four interceptions in a little more than two games.

Pickett is the fifth Steelers player to enter the concussion protocol this season. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick did not miss a game after going into the protocol following a loss to Cleveland last month. Safety Terrell Edmunds missed one game after getting hurt against the Jets.

Tight end Pat Freiermuth and cornerback Levi Wallace sat out last week after sustaining concussions against Buffalo. Tomlin indicated both players could possibly be available on Sunday night.

The Steelers could have the majority of their starting secondary available after only one regular — Edmunds — played against the Buccaneers. Wallace, Fitzpatrick (knee), Ahkello Witherspoon (hamstring) and Cam Sutton (hamstring) all sat out as Pittsburgh beat Tom Brady for just the fourth time in 16 tries during Brady's long career.

Tomlin said the play of little-used backups or practice squad players such as Elijah Wright and Quincy Wilson is Tomlin's “standard is the standard” cliche come to life.

“When guys get an opportunity to ascend and make plays and positively contribute to a winning effort, it solidifies and hopefully is inspirational for those that are still very much in development awaiting their opportunities,” he said.

NOTES: Tomlin declined to confirm or deny a reported confrontation between Trubisky and wide receiver Diontae Johnson at halftime of the Jets' game, right before Trubisky was benched. “If it transpired, good. It probably means there’s a couple of guys that wanted to win,” Tomlin said. “If it didn’t transpire, that probably means that it should have because we are aggressively pursuing victory.” ... Tomlin also called the return of former Miami head coach Brian Flores — now a senior defensive assistant in Pittsburgh — a “non-factor.” Miami fired Flores last January, starting a series of events that concluded with Flores suing Miami and the NFL among others alleging racist hiring practices. The civil case remains in the courts.


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