The Steelers’ quarterback situation dominates headlines.
With Ben Roethlisberger retired and enjoying the podcast life, the team finds itself with a new man under center for the first time in 18 years.
And that man is Mitchell David Trubisky.
You all know the story with Trubisky: highly touted, highly drafted, moderate success at the pro level now looking for a fresh start, yadda yadda…
Here’s the thing: None of that matters when the ball is kicked off in Cincinnati’s Paycor Stadium to start the Steelers’ 2022 season.
“I wouldn’t call it a ‘rebirth’ but it’s definitely the next opportunity for me, and I’m always looking ahead, looking to see what I can continue to get better at,” Trubisky said Wednesday during a media availability at the Rooney Complex. “I’m just grateful to be in this position with this team and try to take full advantage of it.”
Among the Mason Rudolph and Kenny Pickett chatter this offseason –– and oh boy was there ever some chatter –– stands one fact which can’t be ignored.
Mitch Trubisky was never not the Steelers’ starting quarterback for Week 1.
From the second the Steelers signed him in March, Trubisky was the guy. Think about what that means.
The Steelers had Rudolph waiting, his 5-4-1 record as a starter and 80.9 career QB rating ready to roll.
The team also drafted Pickett at No. 20 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft –– then the rookie from Pitt balled out in the preseason, generating more and more hype every time he touched the ball.
“I thought his acceleration of development really took off once we stepped into stadiums. His decision-making, the fluidity of it, his competitive spirit, his pinpoint accuracy –– all of those things I thought really came to the forefront once we started stepping into stadiums.”
Pretty glowing praise, eh? That’s Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin talking about… Pickett.
Pickett impressed Tomlin and the Steelers’ staff enough to snag the No. 2 spot on the team’s depth chart and to earn that shower of praise up there.
That’s a bingo card of buzz words you want to hear about a rookie quarterback’s development, friends. Decision-making. Fluidity. Development. Pinpoint accuracy. Competitive spirit.
It’s enough to make ya believe Pickett really is the future of the Steelers organization.
But not enough to challenge Trubisky for his starting role.
“They said (Trubisky) was the starter in training camp,” wide receiver Diontae Johnson said Wednesday. “But I guess they didn’t really mention it to y’all..”
So you gotta ask yourself: Just how good is Mitch Trubisky?
What do the Steelers know that others missed?
Trubisky’s career to date looks shaky. Through an objective lens, you must acknowledge Trubisky, a No. 2 overall pick, got traded –– then served as a backup –– after just four years in the league. The Steelers then signed him to a modest contract in March.
But he was a No. 2 overall pick back in 2017. And he did make the Pro Bowl in 2018.
And this Steelers offense is kinda stacked.
“We’re very talented here,” Trubisky acknowledged. “That’s part of the reason I wanted to come here. I’m excited about the guys we have and I’m excited to see what this offense can be.”
This matters –– big time.
Back in that Pro Bowl 2018 campaign, Trubisky worked with a less-than-stellar cast.
Wide receiver Allen Robinson led the team with 754 yards receiving, while Taylor Gabriel paced the squad with 67 catches. Running back Jordan Howard added 935 yards on the ground.
Just last year –– a lackluster season offensively for the Steelers –– position players obliterated those numbers.
Najee Harris ran for 1,200 yards as a rookie and added another 467 through the air. Diontae Johnson caught 107 passes for 1,161 yards, while Chase Claypool added another 860 yards. Rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth snagged seven receiving touchdowns and caught 60 passes of his own.
They’re all back.
And a potential rookie of the year in receiver George Pickens joins the squad, too.
“I think it’s just the people here,” Trubisky continued. “I think their love for football and just how much they care about winning –– those are two things I think are characteristics of me… I think coming here is just a seamless transition for me.”
Trubisky sees it. His teammates see it. The Steelers coaching staff sees it.
Former players see it:
Trubisky is going to surprise a lot of people this year…Count me as one of the folks that has faith he will get the job done!
— Trai Essex (@TraiDay79) September 7, 2022
Even opponents know what’s up:
Vonn Bell says don’t sleep on Mitch Trubisky in the post Big Ben era of Steelers pic.twitter.com/SmFjC0xQbT
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) September 7, 2022
“His mobility, like you’re saying, being able to escape, break tackles –– you see a lot of d-linemen around him and he’s breaking it and extending plays, and that’s where he’s dangerous,” Bengals safety Vonn Bell said Wednesday (h/t Mike Petraglia). “I played against him in Chicago … He’s a strong guy.”
Throughout the offseason, the Steelers’ quarterback conversation mostly centered around the other two guys. We discussed Pickett’s ascent. We gossiped about Rudolph’s future.
All the while, we missed the more important question: What if Mitch Trubisky plays really well?
In that case, the narrative for the Steelers’ season changes in a flash. It’s the obvious X-factor that hasn’t been seriously considered by many.
If Trubisky isn’t just “OK” but actually good, you’re looking at a clear-cut playoff team with real potential to make noise deep into the postseason. You might even be looking at Lombardi No. 7 for the trophy case.
You hear Trubisky talk, and he says all the right things. Watch him play, and he makes the right passes. He scrambles and extends plays. He shows off competitive spirit and poise in the two-minute drill. He drops dimes to the best receiver he’s played with at the NFL level:
— NFL (@NFL) August 28, 2022
The more Mitch Trubisky puts on film in the black and gold, you know what?
I think I can start to see it, too.