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Mitch Trubisky Aces Final Test in Steelers QB Battle

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Steelers QB Mitch Trubisky Captain

PITTSBURGH — Throughout the preseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers offense dominated in two-minute drills, and in the finale against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, Mitch Trubisky finally got his turn and aced that test as well.

Trubisky took the Steelers offense 92 yards in just six plays, with a big 32-yard completion to Pat Freiermuth streaking up the middle of the field setting the Steelers up in the red zone and a 6-yard pass to Steven Sims capping off the drive on the next play.

Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph each led the team on game-winning two-minute drives earlier in the preseason, but as the starter in each of the first two games, Trubisky had yet to get that chance. 

“A lot of two-minute situations we’ve been practicing in practices, so it was nice to get a live rep at it,” Trubisky said. “We went right down the field and scored a touchdown. I thought it was smooth, good communication, getting in and out of the huddle.”

Head coach Mike Tomlin said he wanted to see what the first-team offense could do and wasn’t going to take them out of the game before he was satisfied. After the first three drives ended in field goal attempts, he definitely wanted one solid scoring drive from Trubisky and company.

“I was going to leave them in there until I got to a level of comfort in terms of what I wanted to see,” Tomlin said. “Getting Mitch and that group and opportunity to execute two-minute was a major component, and so we got that.”

The two-minute drill and other pieces of situational football matter a lot to the Steelers. They practice it a ton and that practice has paid off. Last season under Ben Roethlisberger, they were 8-2 in one-score games.

The battle to replace Roethlisberger has been raging, and that situational success is the one piece that Trubisky hadn’t been able to show to this point. With that feather in his cap, it looks like a successful preseason for the presumptive Steelers starting quarterback.

“I feel confident with where I’m at in our overall developing with our offense,” Trubisky said. “I feel confident, and I’m excited to see where we go from here. … I think I’ve shown I can run this offense, I can lead this offense, and I have what it takes to help this team win games.”

The start of Sunday’s preseason finale didn’t go so well. In the first five Steelers possessions, the team punted twice and attempted three field goals, but three times went three-and-out.

Part of the problem was the Steelers’ offensive line, especially on the first two drives, when they combined for three penalties and two sacks allowed. The Steelers also could not run the ball, with Najee Harris getting four carries for 10 yards in his only preseason work.

The Steelers tried to bolster the offensive line by playing with extra tight ends and lining Connor Heyward up at fullback, but Trubisky said the change that will have to come is the passing offense opening those lanes up.

“It’s our job to create running lanes for him and lighter run boxes with our matchups on the outside,” Trubisky said. “He’s obviously a special talent, and he makes this offense go.”

As the Steelers learned last year when the line couldn’t protect Roethlisberger, an exclusively short passing game won’t accomplish that. Trubisky will need to push the ball down the field, and he also showed that ability on Sunday. In addition to the long pass to Freiermuth in the two-minute drill, he also found Diontae Johnson down the left sideline for a 38-yard gain on the second possession.

“We’re going to be aggressive,” Trubisky said. “We like our play makers inside and out, so, when we get matched up one- on-ones, we like to take advantage of those. Down the field, I thought we hit one early to Diontae, and I think we could have had a couple more.”

The Steelers made the playoffs last year with the No. 23 offense in terms of total yardage. They have a quality defense and one of the best kickers in the league. They don’t need to be an offensive juggernaut to win football games. They just need to be at least as good as last year.

Trubisky has shown he can be that. Pickett, who also performed well on Sunday, has as well. Rudolph hasn’t been bad, either. Regardless of who Tomlin names the winner of the competition, the team should figure to get quality quarterback play in 2022.

“You want to make decisions because what people are doing and not because what others aren’t,” Tomlin said. “The fact that they all played well is a good problem to have, certainly.”

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