Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky will make his fifth start of the season on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, and his first in relief of injured rookie Kenny Pickett, but he is expected to be on a short leash after an out-of-sorts relief appearance last week.
Trubisky threw three interceptions after replacing Pickett in the Steelers’ Week 14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, and despite him being the backup quarterback for every game that Pickett has started, head coach Mike Tomlin decided to hold an in-season competition between Trubisky and Mason Rudolph this week.
The message was clear that Tomlin was unhappy with Trubisky’s backup work, even though he eventually picked Trubisky as his starter. NFL Network reported on Sunday morning that Trubisky will have a short leash on Sunday, and that Tomlin will not hesitate to turn to Rudolph if things don’t go well.
The two veterans split the first-team reps at practice this week while Pickett was limited. Pickett will not dress on Sunday, and that means that Rudolph should be ready to go if called upon.
He will be active for a game for the first time this season. His last significant playing time was in a tie against the Detroit Lions late last season while Ben Roethlisberger was on the COVID-19 list.
Tomlin has already benched Trubisky once this season, after a miserable first half against the New York Jets in Week 4. Even though he’s the starter, it does not appear he’d be immune from being replaced if he doesn’t get the message about valuing the football.