PITTSBURGH (AP) – Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett will practice Wednesday and play next Sunday night against Miami if he meets the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that Pickett will not have “any restrictions” in practice this week and that the plan is to stick with Pickett if he is available rather than turn to backup Mitch Trubisky, who played well in exchange for Pickett in 20-18 win over Tampa Bay last week.
“If Kenny Pickett is cleared to play, he will play,” Tomlin said.
Pickett left in the third quarter against the Buccaneers after he was legally tackled to the ground by Tampa Bay linebacker Devin White. He lay on the Acrisure Stadium turf for a few moments, got up, then sat down as officials ordered members of Pittsburgh’s medical staff to tend to Pickett.
The 20th overall pick in the draft made it to the sideline, then to the practice room for a physical and never returned. Trubisky, who was benched for Pickett at halftime of the Oct. 2 loss to the New York Jets, 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 he doesn’t plan to go back to Trubisky if Pickett is ready.
“We’re not going to blow into the wind,” Tomlin said. “We will be somewhat stable. I have been consistent in my messaging regarding decision-making in that position. I think it helps those who play. I think it helps the team in terms of who to follow. And we’re not going to change 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 just over two games.
Pickett is the fifth Steelers player to enter the concussion protocol this season. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick did not miss a game after entering 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 went down last week after suffering concussions against Buffalo. Tomlin indicated that both players could be available 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 (groin) and Cam Sutton (groin) all went scoreless as Pittsburgh beat Tom Brady for just the fourth time in 16 tries during Brady’s long career.
Tomlin said the game of little-used backups or practice squad players like Elijah Wright and Quincy Wilson is Tomlin’s “standard is standard” cliché revived.
“When guys get a chance to step up and play and make a positive contribution to a winning effort, it’s solidifying and hopefully inspiring for those who are still developing and waiting for their opportunities,” he said.
NOTES: Tomlin declined to confirm or deny a report of an altercation between Trubisky and wide receiver Diontae Johnson at halftime of the Jets game, shortly before Trubisky left the bench. “If it happened, fine. That probably means there are a few guys that want to win,” Tomlin said. “If it didn’t happen, that probably means it should have because we’re aggressively going for the win.” … 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, setting off a chain of events that ended with Flores suing Miami and the NFL over alleged racist hiring practices, among other things. The civil case remains in the courts.
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