Following the Pittsburg Steelers' 24-20 loss to the New York Jets, head coach Mike Tomlin benched starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and named rookie Kenny Pickett as his replacement. Although things were looking up for the 24-year-old QB, it appears he will lose his starting position for a few games after taking a massive hit during the sixth week of the 2022-23 NFL season.
So, what happened to Kenny Pickett? Here's everything we know.
What happened to Kenny Pickett?
During the third quarter of the Steelers' week six matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kenny Pickett took a hit from Bucs linebacker Devin White while throwing a pass to Diontae Johnson. The two-time All-Pro struck the rookie QB in the chest as he released the ball, which led to Kenny hitting the back of his head on the turf when he landed on the ground.
The referees immediately signaled for medical personnel, and Kenny Pickett was quickly escorted to the locker room for further evaluation. At first, the Steelers announced Kenny was "questionable to return," but the University of Pittsburgh alum was soon ruled out for the rest of the game with a concussion. Mitchell Trubisky replaced him and led the Steelers to a 20-18 victory.
Kenny's head injury comes just days after the NFL and the NFLPA revised concussion protocols following their investigation into Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's lackluster concussion evaluation on Sept. 25 against the Buffalo Bills.
On Oct. 8, the NFL and the NFLPA announced the concussion protocol modification in a joint statement, revealing that the diagnosis of "ataxia" has officially been added to the mandatory "no-go" symptoms.
"'Ataxia' is defined as abnormality of balance/stability, motor coordination, or dysfunctional speech caused by a neurological issue," the statement read. "In other words, if a player is diagnosed with 'ataxia' by any club or neutral physician involved in the application of the Concussion Protocol, he will be prohibited from returning to the game, and will receive the follow-up care required by the Protocol."
When will Kenny Pickett return?
As of this writing, there have been no reports on when Kenny will return to the field. However, given the stronger concussion protocols, it's likely Steelers fans won't see him on the field for at least one or two games. To make matters worse, Sports Illustrated reported that even if Kenny is medically cleared of protocol, he still will not play — why is that?
Well, an NFL athlete usually "needs four to six days to pass through all the [concussion protocol] stages," the outlet disclosed, adding that the "Steelers' policy for most players in the locker room is the need to practice at least once throughout the week in order to play in the game." Sports Illustrated further noted that Kenny "will need to be cleared by an independent doctor after passing all stages of the concussion protocol."
So if Kenny misses any practice time ahead of the seventh week of competition, even if he is medically cleared for the Oct. 23 game against the Dolphins, the Steelers will most likely use Mitch as their starting quarterback.