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Steelers name rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett the starter for Sunday’s game against the Bills

Steelers first-round pick Kenny Pickett came off the bench in last Sunday's loss to the Jets.Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Mike Tomlin never had a definitive timeline on when to hand the keys to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense to Kenny Pickett.

If anything, Tomlin wanted to delay a move that seemed inevitable from the moment the Steelers drafted Pickett with the 20th overall pick six months ago. Asked as recently as a week ago how he would know it’s time, Tomlin shrugged and said simply, “You just kind of know when you’re there.”

The Steelers, off to a 1-3 start heading into the most daunting stretch of their season, are there.

The Pickett era is officially underway in Pittsburgh. No turning back now. The rookie quarterback will make his first start on Sunday when the Steelers visit the Bills (3-1), a decision Tomlin made because he feels it gives his team its best chance to win, not only this weekend but down the road.


“He’s a young guy, he’s going to grow throughout this process,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “But make no mistake about it, we’re not grading him on a curve. He’s not grading himself on a curve. There’s an expectation of quality play and playing to win.”

Mitch Trubisky and the Steelers lost three of their first four to start the season.Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Tangible qualities Pickett showed in abundance while playing next door at the University of Pittsburgh, where he morphed from a three-star prospect when he arrived in January 2017 to a Heisman Trophy finalist last fall.

Tomlin was quick to not place full blame for the switch at the feet of Mitchell Trubisky, who found only sporadic success in three-plus games after being tabbed as the starter at the end of training camp.

“Oftentimes a quarterback position gets too much credit and too much blame,” Tomlin said. “We haven’t moved the ball fluidly enough to our liking. We hadn’t put enough points on the board. The quarterback is a component of that but not the only component. We’ve all got to absorb the responsibility that comes with what we are.”


Colts running back Taylor to wait and see

Colts running back Jonathan Taylor intends to use Thursday night’s pregame warm-ups as a test to see if he can play against the Broncos despite an ankle injury.

The news was worse for Colts three-time All Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard. In addition to the concussion keeping him out this week, Leonard may miss even more time with a fractured nose.

“I’m going to use as much time as I can in order to get treatment and get feeling as well as possible before trying to make any decisions, and I think that’s critical on a short week,” Taylor said. “So just trying to push as much treatment as I can.”

Will Taylor be OK to play this week? The Colts sure hope so.Zach Bolinger/Associated Press

Until the Colts (1-2-1) held him out of offseason workouts this spring, Taylor couldn’t remember the last time he missed a practice. Then last week, an injured toe limited his participation in practice.

The backup plan likely would mean giving Nyheim Hines more touches while elevating Colorado native and former Broncos Pro Bowler Phillip Lindsay to the active roster.

Vikings’ Cine has leg surgery

Vikings safety Lewis Cine, who suffered a compound fracture of his left leg in Sunday’s win over the Saints, underwent surgery in London. Cine, a former star at Everett High who was the 32nd overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, was placed on IR following a gruesome injury sustained during a punt return. Cine is expected to remain in London until he’s ready to travel back to the United States. “Thank you for all the prayers and well-wishes over the last two days,” Cine said in a statement Tuesday via Twitter. “With today’s surgery behind me, I’m looking forward to returning to Minnesota, supporting my teammates, and attacking this rehab so I can get back to doing what I love to do. Skol Vikings!” … The Broncos signed veteran running back Latavius Murray off the Saints’ practice squad and placed dynamic second-year rusher Javonte Williams on injured reserve with a season-ending torn ACL. The Broncos also placed outside linebacker Randy Gregory on IR. He needs knee surgery and will miss at least a month and maybe longer. Murray is a 10th-year pro who has appeared in 128 NFL games with the Raiders, Vikings, Ravens, and Saints. He ran 11 times for 57 yards and a touchdown in the Saints’ 28-25 loss to the Vikings in London on Sunday. Williams tore his right ACL and LCL on his first second-half carry Sunday in the Broncos’ 32-23 loss at Las Vegas … Browns rookie running back Jerome Ford was placed on IR after injuring his ankle in Sunday’s loss to the Falcons. A fifth-round pick from Cincinnati, Ford has been returning kickoffs for the Browns (2-2), who lost return specialist Jakeem Grant to a season-ending Achilles’ injury during training camp. Ford averaged 24.2 yards on six returns, with a long of 44 yards … Cowboys long snapper Jake McQuaide is out for the season after tearing a triceps muscle against the Commanders on Sunday. The injury happened on McQuaide’s final snap of the game, which was a punt late in the fourth quarter of Dallas’s 25-10 victory, the team said.