Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett underwent ankle surgery on Monday to expedite the recovery of a high sprain in his right ankle, according to coach Mike Tomlin. Pickett will be sidelined for Thursday’s game against the New England Patriots. Although Tomlin did not provide a specific timeline for Pickett’s return, he assured us that the injury was not season-ending.
Coach Tomlin, when questioned about Pickett’s recovery timeline, stated, “They’ll always come out of the O.R. with some information in that regard, but I’m just not privy to it as I sit here today. That’s why I framed it the way that I framed it. Rest assured, he won’t be available this week.”
Pickett underwent a “TightRope” procedure, as per sources from ESPN. Notably, he had a similar ankle stabilization procedure on his left ankle in 2020 while at Pitt, returning after a four-week recovery period.
In the absence of Pickett, quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who took over in Sunday’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals, will start against the Patriots, with Mason Rudolph serving as the backup.
Explaining the decision to start Trubisky over Rudolph, Tomlin said, “He gets the most work. You can’t give work to three guys, to be quite honest with you. Most of Mason Rudolph’s work comes on a scout team offense, and so Mitch has been positioned to get the work.”
The Steelers also added former Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley to the practice squad on Monday.
Thursday’s game will be the seventh time in 26 games that Trubisky has played due to Pickett’s injuries. Tomlin dismissed concerns about Pickett’s repeated injuries, stating, “I don’t know that we’re viewing it as something that’s chronic, particularly with something like an ankle injury, and so we’re just dealing with this on a case-by-case basis as we sit here right now.”
Earlier in the season, Pickett left two games early with a knee bruise and rib injury. Despite taking over the starting role early in the 2022 season, Pickett exited two games early with concussions and missed one start.
The Steelers are winless in the three games where Trubisky replaced Pickett this season, but they had a 2-1 record last season when Trubisky either took over or started after Pickett became the full-time starter in Week 5.
This season, Trubisky has completed 29 of 49 attempts for 273 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Tomlin spoke highly of Trubisky, saying, “He’s been a franchise quarterback before. He’s comfortable in those shoes. He doesn’t behave like a backup as being elevated, and I think those are things that make him attractive.”
Trubisky will face a Patriots defense that has held opponents to seven points or fewer in the past three games. The Patriots’ passing defense has also improved, limiting opposing offenses to an average of 189.3 yards in their last three outings.
Despite the setback of losing Pickett, tight end Pat Freiermuth expressed confidence in Trubisky, emphasizing that the team remains focused and committed to executing the game plan.