Steelers veteran gives up No. 8 jersey for rookie Kenny Pickett, who wore the number in college

Only one member of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie class has received their jersey number in the days immediately following the draft. That player is quarterback and first-round pick Kenny Pickett, who will continue to wear No. 8 after wearing that number at the University of Pittsburgh.  

Karl Joseph, the Steelers’ veteran safety, changed his jersey from No. 30 to No. 8 last season after Melvin Ingram (who wore No. 8 during his brief time in Pittsburgh) was traded to Kansas City during the 2021 campaign. Joseph has switched numbers again following the Steelers’ acquisition of Pickett, as he will now wear No. 38 for the upcoming season. 

Typically, a rookie has to offer some sort of incentive for a veteran to give up his number. It will be interesting to see if that was the case here or if Joseph simply volunteered to change numbers. Regardless, Pickett will get to keep his number, as his No. 8 jerseys are already being sold on the Steelers’ website. Pickett’s jersey is currently flanked on the website by T.J. Watt, the current face of the franchise, and Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback Pickett is following in Pittsburgh. 

With his old number in tow, Pickett will take his first NFL reps during Pittsburgh rookie minicamp, which will run from May 13-15. Pickett, who finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting last season, will get a chance to throw to fellow rookies George Pickens, Calvin Austin III and Connor Heyward. Pickett will also get to play alongside running back Mataeo Durant, who was picked up by the Steelers after going undrafted. 

Pickett will become the second Steelers quarterback to wear No. 8. The first, Tommy Maddox, enjoyed a fast start in Pittsburgh after replacing Kordell Stewart several games into the 2002 season. Maddox helped lead the Steelers to a 10-5-1 record and a dramatic, come-from-behind win over the Browns in the wild card round of the playoffs. 

Two years later, Maddox was replaced in the Steelers’ lineup after suffering an injury in Week 2. His replacement, a rookie named Roethlisberger, held the position for 18 years before retiring this past January with two Super Bowl wins and nearly every significant franchise passing record. 

While Roethlisberger was not slated to start as a rookie, Pickett will be given the chance to compete with Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph to be the team’s Week 1 starter. 

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