Sunday of Week 4 of the NFL season was defined by injuries, and none may end up being more significant than the one Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett suffered in the second half against the Texans. We'll have more on all the injuries you need to know about from Sunday's action, but first, let's take a look at what a potentially serious Pickett injury would mean for the Steelers offense.
Pickett got rolled up on by a defender as he was being tackled and immediately grabbed at his left leg in pain. He had to be helped off the field and was able to put very little weight on the leg, and was ruled out very shortly after with a knee injury. We don't know much beyond that, with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin saying after the game only that he will need to undergo testing to determine the severity.
We'll know that in due time, but it's not hard to imagine how we could be looking at a multi-week absence for Pickett here, which isn't great news for Pittsburgh's offense – which, to be clear, has been pretty hopeless for much of the season.
Though there probably isn't a huge gap between what we should expect from Mitchell Trubisky and Pickett at this point. There was some optimism that Pickett might have a second-year breakout in him, but between Diontae Johnson's (hamstring) absence and unimaginative playcalling from Matt Canada, this offense has largely stagnated. When you compare Trubisky's numbers from last season to what Pickett has done since entering the NFL, it looks remarkably similar:
- Pickett: 516 pass attempts, 6.2 yards per attempt, 2.1% TD rate, 2.52% INT
- Trubisky: 185 pass attempts, 6.9 yards per attempt, 2.2% TD, 2.7% INT
The comparison isn't entirely fair, of course, because it includes Pickett's first taste of NFL action. But seeing as Pickett hasn't really been much better in his second season, I don't think we should give him too much credit. He might be better than Trubisky, but at this point, I do think it's probably going to be a pretty negligible difference for this offense moving forward if Pickett has to miss time.
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Which means this will likely continue to be a pretty bad offense, with little to get excited about for Fantasy. As long as Johnson is out, George Pickens is the only pass-catcher with much value, especially with Pat Freiermuth leaving Sunday's game with a hamstring injury – though he's had no games with more than 41 yards or four targets this season, so I'm inclined to view him as a touchdown-or-bust TE2 at this point.
Trubisky is a fringe QB2 as long as Pickett is out, and Pickens is a boom-or-bust WR3 now – he's shown some intriguing skills after a decidedly one-dimensional rookie season, but he's also now had one huge game where he scored a long touchdown and then has just 25.6 points in the other three games combined.
Which means the best Fantasy options in this option might be the running backs, specifically the much-maligned Najee Harris. That is, to a certain extent, damning with faint praise, though I do think Harris has taken a lot of undue criticism for the overall offensive woes – he actually leads all running backs with seven touches of at least 15 yards through the 1 pm games Sunday. Harris is a decent, volume-based RB2, though a pretty unexciting one, while Jaylen Warren remains a valuable handcuff who has enough value on his own to start when Harris is healthy – he had 11.5 PPR points Sunday as he seems to have really taken on the passing downs role to himself.
All in all, I think it's fair to say this offense doesn't have any must-start options for Fantasy. Of course, I think it was probably fair to say that before Pickett's injury. Trubisky probably lowers the offense's ceiling – we know who he is, whereas there was at least some theoretical upside with Pickett – but the likeliest outcome is this team just keeps rolling along unsteadily.
The bigger ramifications from this injury will come about if it ends up being a season-ender, because then the Steelers will be left next offseason with a 26-year-old QB with just 16 starts under his belt, and while he'll be 9-7 in those starts, he also has just 11 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. They might have a tough decision to make about the QB position. Trubisky isn't the future, but Pickett hasn't shown enough to give him the benefit of the doubt, either.
The Steelers still have some solid skill players, but there isn't necessarily a can't-miss superstar anywhere on this offense, so I'm just not sure what the path is moving forward. They're too good on defense to tank, and it doesn't seem like Mike Tomlin would ever do that, but there are some tough questions facing this team heading into the offseason even if Pickett ends up being fine.