Where is Kenny Pickett? Why Steelers QB isn’t starting in Week 18 vs. Ravens

The Steelers close their season against the Ravens in Week 18 with a potential playoff berth on the line.

Pittsburgh doesn’t need a win, but it would make its path to the postseason much easier. With a victory, the Steelers would only need a loss from the Bills or Jaguars to claim one of the final AFC Wild Card spots. With a loss, their list of needs to make the playoffs gets much longer.

Luckily for the Steelers, the Ravens have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC and the AFC North division title. MVP candidate Lamar Jackson will rest for the final game of the regular season, turning the offense over to backup quarterback Tyler “Snoop” Huntley.

There’s nothing Baltimore would love more than to spoil Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes, though.

MORE: How Steelers can qualify for NFL Playoffs in Week 18

With the season on the line, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has elected to stick with what has been working, going with interim starting quarterback Mason Rudolph under center.

Where is Kenny Pickett and why is he taking on the backup quarterback role?

Where is Kenny Pickett?

Heading into the Steelers’ must-win Week 18 matchup against the Ravens, Tomlin has decided to stick with Rudolph as the team’s starting quarterback despite Pickett’s return from injury. Pickett will serve as Rudolph’s backup.

Rudolph started the last two games in place of Pickett, who was out with an ankle injury. He picked up a pair of wins to help keep Pittsburgh’s postseason hopes alive, throwing for 564 yards and two touchdowns with zero turnovers while completing 68.6 percent of his passes.

Rudolph led the Steelers’ offense to back-to-back 30-point games for the first time this season, and Tomlin made his starting quarterback decision clear to start the week.

“Kenny’s availability is less in question this week. I anticipate him being available to practice. That being said, we’re going to leave the ball in Mason Rudolph’s hands,” Tomlin said on Monday.

“He’s done a good job and we’ve done a good job in the most recent two weeks. We’ve taken care of the ball. He’s taken care of the ball. We’ve scored points at a rate at which we hadn’t done to this point this year. And with the urgency of the moment and because of those reasons, we’re going to leave the ball in his hands.”

There was some reported controversy that Pickett refused to back up Rudolph in Week 17 against the Seahawks, but the former first-round pick cleared the air on those rumors after Tomlin announced he would be QB2 for Week 18.

MORE: Pickett denies rumors he refused to back up Rudolph vs. Seahawks

“I saw reports out there that I felt like were attacking my character and how I am as a person, not even getting into a player standpoint of it,” Pickett began his Tuesday media availability, per ESPN’s Brooke Pryor.

“There was no talk of me being a backup quarterback this week in terms of being a two. If I was healthy enough to play and the trainers and coaches felt like I looked good enough to play, I was going to start and play. If they believed that I was not, which they believed I was not, was not going to dress and suit up for the game,” Pickett said.

“So whoever reported that, I don’t know where it started, it’s kind of crazy what people will write and put out there to try to prove their point or help their standpoint or their careers and what you guys do. But disappointed to see that without any proof or basis of it.”

Pickett will be dressed and available if needed in Week 18. He has led the Steelers to a 7-5 record in 12 starts this season, throwing for 2,070 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions.

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