Luke Henne | Editor-in-Chief
Sept. 15, 2022
When it comes to sports, I’m a firm believer in athletes having the chance to succeed unless they do something that warrants that opportunity being taken away from them.
Whether that’s off-the-field behavior or on-the-field performance, things happen. In Cleveland, Deshaun Watson’s behavior warranted a suspension. In Seattle, Drew Lock’s preseason struggles called for Geno Smith to be named the starter.
Here in Pittsburgh, Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky has become the subject of scrutiny. Should he start? Should he be benched in favor of Kenny Pickett, the Steelers’ first-round selection in the 2022 National Football League Draft?
Trubisky’s performance in Sunday’s season-opening, overtime win against the Cincinnati Bengals was nothing special, but he wasn’t terrible. He completed 21 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown.
Yes, that only equates to 9.2 yards/completion. Yes, the Steelers’ top three wide receivers (Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, George Pickens) only combined for 76 receiving yards. Yes, the offense was way too conservative, and Trubisky needs to get a chance to air the ball out more.
However, Trubisky was just fine. He didn’t throw any interceptions (Joe Burrow, his counterpart, threw four). He took just one sack, which feels like a win considering how bad Pittsburgh’s offensive line is expected to be this season.
In regulation, he did nothing special. In overtime, however, he looked solid.
His 25-yard connection with Diontae Johnson on the Steelers’ second of three overtime drives did not result in any points, but it showed what the tandem can do when Trubisky tries to get the ball downfield.
On the final drive, where Chris Boswell kicked a game-winning, 53-yard field goal, perhaps it was Trubisky who saved the Steelers from what would have been their third tie in the last five seasons.
On a 3rd-and-1 where Cincinnati’s Sam Hubbard was flagged for going offside, Trubisky had Jaylen Warren open for a dump off that likely wouldn’t have resulted in a gain of more than 10 yards. Instead, he took advantage of the free play and found tight end Pat Freiermuth over the middle for a 26-yard connection. Those yards made all the difference when it came time for Boswell to head onto the field.
There are things to clean up. Trubisky appeared to be throwing off his back foot more often than not, a recipe that could lead to dangerous plays against alert defenses.
All things considered, it was an average performance from Trubisky. Despite it being average, the Steelers still found a way to win a road game against a divisional opponent, not to mention that it was against the defending American Football Conference (AFC) champion.
The Steelers’ schedule is very favorable over the next three weeks. Pittsburgh has games against the New England Patriots (home), the Cleveland Browns (away) and the New York Jets (home). It’s certainly unlikely, but there’s a chance that the Steelers could take a 4-0 record into a road contest in week five against the Buffalo Bills, a presumptive Super Bowl favorite.
If the offensive line doesn’t pan out, wouldn’t you rather have Trubisky — now in his sixth season in the league — navigating around the circumstances rather than Kenny Pickett? If Pickett goes down to injury, a big piece of the future is compromised almost instantly.
In all reality, Trubisky is probably not as big a piece of the franchise’s future as Pickett is. But, Trubisky is also getting paid over $7 million this season and in 2023, so you ride it out with him.
You don’t bench a veteran quarterback who can at least give you a chance to win in favor of someone who’s never played a regular-season game in the NFL before.
Enjoy the ride. Pickett will get his chance soon enough. Until then, appreciate the fact that the transition from Ben Roethlisberger to Trubisky doesn’t appear to be too bumpy.