How long is Kenny Pickett out? Injury timeline, return date, latest updates for Steelers QB

The fate of the Steelers’ 2023 season may rest on the shoulders of Mitch Trubisky. 

Pittsburgh starting quarterback Kenny Pickett underwent ankle surgery on Monday after suffering a high ankle sprain during the Steelers’ Week 13 loss to the Cardinals. While a potential return to the campaign has not been ruled out, it’s Trubisky’s offense for the time being. 

Entering the “Thursday Night Football” contest against the Patriots, Mike Tomlin’s crew sits in the top wild-card spot in the AFC, sporting a record of 7-5. However, Pittsburgh is one of four teams with the same record, meaning the Steelers could very easily fall out of the postseason picture depending on the Week 14 results. 

Pickett has had an up-and-down 2023 campaign. The 2022 first-round pick out of Pitt has completed 62% of his passes this season for 2,070 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions. He spent most of the season working underneath former offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who was fired ahead of Week 12. 

MORE: NFL picks, predictions for Week 14

Here is more information on Pickett’s injury and when he will return for the Steelers. 

How long is Kenny Pickett out?

Pickett underwent ankle surgery on Monday. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Pickett is expected to miss “a couple of weeks” because of the injury.

Steelers’ QB Kenny Pickett’s ankle injury is expected to sideline him “a couple of weeks”, per league source.

The Steelers host the Patriots on Thursday night, and Mitch Trubisky now is expected to be the starter.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 4, 2023

Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette initially reported on Sunday about the surgery, saying it likely would end the quarterback’s season. However, the Steelers are not placing Pickett on injured reserve, leaving the potential for a return at some point toward the end of the regular season. 

With Pickett sidelined for the time being, that means Trubisky will start for Pittsburgh against New England on Thursday.

MORE: How loss to Cardinals impacted Steelers’ playoff chances

What is Kenny Pickett’s injury?

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed on Monday that Pickett suffered a high-ankle sprain.  

Pickett was injured on a QB scramble up the middle with 5:32 left in the second quarter during the Steelers’ loss to the Cardinals in Week 13.

On third-and-goal from the Cardinals’ three-yard line, the QB rushed for a gain of two yards, getting the ball down to the one-yard line. After the play was over, Pickett struggled getting to his feet, and it appeared he was unable to put all of his weight on his foot. 

My view of the Kenny Pickett play. #AZCardinals #Steelers

— Donnie Druin (@DonnieDruin) December 3, 2023

Mitch Trubisky is heading in for Kenny Pickett.

— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) December 3, 2023

After he was able to work his way off the field under his own power, Pickett went to the locker room. He was initially ruled questionable to return, but the Steelers later downgraded him to out. 

Pickett was seen on the Steelers’ bench for the second half wearing a walking boot. 

Kenny Pickett is in a walking boot on the Steelers bench.

— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) December 3, 2023

Ankle sprain recovery timeline in the NFL

The recovery time for an ankle sprain can vary significantly. It all depends on the severity of the ailment. 

Per Harvard Health Publishing, there are three categorizations of ankle sprains from Grade 1 to Grade 3. 

Severity Damage to ligaments Recovery timeline
Grade 1 Minimal stretching, no tearing 1-3 weeks
Grade 2 Partial tear 3-6 weeks
Grade 3 Full tear or rupture Up to several months

The Steelers have not revealed anything about the extent of Pickett’s injury other than that it is a high ankle sprain. However, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Pickett underwent a “tightrope-type” procedure. 

A “tightrope” surgery hastens the recovery process for an ankle injury. Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp had the procedure in 2022 after suffering an ankle ailment and missed the last eight games of the season, which is on the longer side for an ankle sprain. 

On the flip side, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has suffered multiple high ankle sprains in his career and has been able to come back and play the next game. 


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