A year ago, at this stage of the offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers had inked Mitch Trubisky to a two-year contract and spoke of the veteran quarterback having the ability to be the starter. Then they went to work on scouting the rookie signal-callers ahead of the draft.
After selecting Kenny Pickett in the first round -- the only QB to go in Round 1 in 2022 -- this offseason is much different in the Steel City. Instead, the focus is on building a support system around the young quarterback.
"I'm excited about Kenny individually in terms of the growth that he's capable of making and, and what he's willing to do to realize that," Tomlin told ESPN's Brooke Pryor on Sunday at the Annual League Meeting in Phoenix. "I think I'm probably more excited about that because I've just been around him intimately now for 12 months. There was some anticipation things because of the close proximity that we've all talked about quite a bit, but the reality of having worked with him for 12 months, it's just more evidence of what we should be excited about -- his willingness to work, his professional approach, his maturity in processing. It's exciting."
After becoming the starter in Week 5, Pickett showed enough flashes throughout the season for the Steelers to be confident he's their franchise quarterback. It wasn't a flawless rookie campaign by any stretch, with the offense sometimes lacking explosiveness and continuity. But Pickett showed heady playmaking, an ability to escape pressure and a good rapport with his wideouts.
Moving forward, the Steelers need to bolster the situation around the young QB, including upgrading the offensive line, which they've attempted to help solve by inking guards Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig, and adding right tackle Le'Raven Clark for depth in free agency.
Tomlin believes the continuity in retaining offensive coordinator Matt Canada in 2023 will help Pickett's development.
"I think it's reasonable to expect that to be significant," Tomlin said. "But we'll have an opportunity to make it so."