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Steelers QB Mitch Trubisky Excited to ‘Play Free’ in Matt Canada’s Offense

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Steelers QB Mitch Trubisky
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky throws during his first day of OTAs at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex Tuesday, May 24, 2022.

PITTSBURGH — Mitch Trubisky admits he wasn’t told by the Steelers they were drafting a quarterback, but he wasn’t caught off guard by their decision to select Kenny Pickett either. And after his first voluntary OTA day Tuesday, Trubisky sounded confident in his approach to earning the starting job as the Steelers’ quarterback in 2022.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Trubisky said when asked if he was surprised about the Steelers’ picking Pickett. “We needed to add to the quarterback room and that’s what we did. We’re happy to have him and I look forward to working with him.”

Trubisky signed his deal with the Steelers on Mar. 17, about a month and a half before the Steelers selected Pickett with the 20th overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft. It wasn’t a decision the team talked with Trubisky about, but that wasn’t anything that would change his goals or approach to the season.

“They didn’t,” Trubisky said when asked if the Steelers told him they were drafting Pickett. “I knew coming into the situation that I would have to come in,  compete and earn the trust of my teammates. I have to get back onto the field with hard work, my talent and being a leader on  this team. We didn’t have those conversations, but I knew it was a possibility coming wherever I would go next.”

As for getting getting along with all four of the team’s quarterbacks, including himself, Pickett, Mason Rudolph and rookie Chris Oladokun, Trubisky appreciate the mix of young and old to the room.

“It’s good,” Trubisky said of the vibe in the quarterback room. “We’ve got two young guys and two vets. There’s a lot of ongoing conversations as we learn the offense for the first time together. We’re all pushing each other and competing. It’s been a good quarterback room so far.”

During the first day of OTAs, Trubisky took first quarterback reps while Rudolph came in second, Pickett third, and Oladokun fourth. Very early OTA reps usually mean very little to how things will pan out for the season opener against the Bengals on Sept. 11, but it’s still interesting to see the veterans get the early attention.

THE CANADA PLAN

But as Trubisky is getting used to his new teammates and competitors in the quarterback room, he’s also getting used to the new offense under Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

“I think it does,” Trubisky said when asked if Canada’s offense allows him to play more free. “We’ve got a lot of good stuff going on. Right now we’re in the (installation) period and trying to learn it. But it’s been a lot of fun. The conversations I’ve had with coach is that we’re going to play to our strength. Once we get to know each other, we’ll find what our strengths are, and that’s where this offense will go.”

Finding those strengths is going to be a process, but Trubisky seems to feel like he’s starting from a good foundation with the beginning of OTAs.

“I feel very comfortable,” Trubisky said of the new offense. “I think the staff and the guys around have done a great job being in the books, studying and picking it up really quickly. We’ve kind of installed everything, so now we’re going to go through and find out what fits us as an offense. That’s with me specifically, and the rest of the quarterback room. It’s been a good installation period and I’m really enjoying the offense so far.”

That level of comfort could be essential for Trubisky getting to play the style of football he feels he’s capable of, if his understanding of Canada’s offense translates to the field. When talking with the sixth-year quarterback out of North Carolina you get a sense he’s proud of how he’s grown, but that he also feels he has much more to offer in the Steelers’ system.

PAST LESSONS

Working under Canada represents the fifth NFL offensive coordinator Trubisky has had in his professional career. He worked under Dowell Loggains, Mark Helfrich and Bill Lazor in his four years with the Bears, and Brian Daboll last season with the Bills. But he looks at all those times and changes as an advantage that’s built him into the quarterback he is today, rather than a hinderance.

“Whether Chicago, Buffalo or Pittsburgh, I take all my experiences with me,” Trubisky said. “It’s made me into who I am. I’ve played a lot of ball, faced a lot of teams, defenses and organizations. I know how this thing runs, and that helps me help the young guys. We get to know our teammates and that’s how important it is to be here for OTAs. We get to mesh come together and build team chemistry.”

When asked if he benefited more from starting 12 games as a rookie or sitting for a year and studying the game last season as a backup for the Bills, Trubisky expressed appreciation from each perspective those times offered him.

“I’m grateful for all my starts and experience,” Trubisky said of his past experience. “That’s the ongoing debate on philosophy; do you sit a guy or you playing him right away and throw him right into the fire? I love being thrown in right away. I learned a lot my rookie year and each year after that. Every opportunity is a learning experience. I learned a lot last year too. I’m looking to apply that right now and that’s got me to where I am right now.”

Trubisky also expressed appreciation for his time working behind Josh Allen with the Bills, even saying the experience helped rediscover parts of his game.

“I learned so much from Josh,” Trubisky said of his time with Allen in Buffalo. “Just being a year with him, I saw what it was like when everybody let the quarterback play his game, trust his instincts and reads. You’re playing football. You’re not thinking, you’re reacting. It was really fun to be around him. I felt like that got me back to who I was and I how I wanted to play football. I could use my instincts, whether it’s running, throwing or going through my reads. Being around him in Buffalo, I learned how to process a lot quicker and know where I wanted to go with the football pre-snap and post-snap.”

It’s clear Trubisky feels like he’s grown substantially as a quarterback from his past years because of those experiences. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to try to be someone different. Instead, he looks at his upcoming chance with the Steelers as an opportunity to show the positive traits he’s always had with the polish of learning as a professional.

“I don’t think it’s going to be brand new,” Trubisky about what he’s ready to show. “But I think just back through everything I’ve leaned, I’ve seen flashes. I think when I go out there, play free and be who I am, it’s about using my instincts, processing fast and leading a team down the field. But at the end of the day it comes down to scoring and helping this team win games. That’ what I feel like like I can do.”

HELP FROM BIG BEN

When it comes to learning more about the Steelers organization, Trubisky says he’s gotten a lot of help from Ben Roethlisberger, whose family had dinner with Trubisky’s family that welcomed his new son, Hudson David Trubisky, earlier this month.

“It was good,” Trubisky said of his family’s dinner with Roethlisberger’s family. “Ben and his whole family were awesome. They reached out to us and really welcomed, me, my wife and my baby boy to this city. It was just so nice for him to open up his house and have dinner with us. We had conversations to get to know him. Everything he’s done here has obviously been amazing for the franchise. That allowed me to pick his brain about what it means to be quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It means a lot to me, and I’ll continue to have an ongoing relationship with him.”

As for any pressure of being the quarterback who starts for the Steelers a year after Roethlisberger retired, Trubisky both acknowledged the challenge and brushed off the scenario being a stresser.

“You’re not going to replace a hall of famer,” Trubisky said. “You’ve got to come in and be yourself. Take it one day at a time. You also have a huge respect for those who came before you, and I have the ultimate respect for Ben and what he’s done here. That’s what we’re trying to do; continue the legacy, win another Super Bowl, and build every day.”

What’s important for Trubisky is for him to grow naturally in the Steelers’ offense and not feel any pressure to deviate from his strengths, but enhance them. Those pressures could come from Pickett being the Steelers’ latest first round draft pick as a quarterback or filling the shoes of the last such quarterback in Roethlisberger.

But at least for a first day of school, Trubisky appears to not let either pressure deter him from his approach in OTAs. That’s a good sign for him to be the quarterback that gets to “play free” in a new offense under Canada.

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