The Pittsburgh Steelers were faced with a question on a short week: should Mitch Trubisky start against the Cleveland Browns in Week 3? Without much time to get the rookie Kenny Pickett ready, they elected to start Trubisky. The Steelers ended up losing to the Browns 29-17, although the score is a little inflated due to a fumble recovery touchdown on a lateral as time expired.
Trubisky was essentially playing for a job and looked fine in the first half. Pittsburgh went into halftime with a 14-13 lead over Cleveland. The momentum was gone as they started the second half with four straight drivers that ended in punts. They didn't score again until a field goal with 1:48 left in the game. Trubisky finished 20 for 32 for 207 yards and had two rushes for seven yards and a touchdown on the ground. The Steelers have a mini bye week and won’t play again until they face the New York Jets on Sunday, October 2. Is it time to go to the rookie?
The case for Trubisky
There really isn't a great case for Trubisky to continue to be the starter, at least not on the field. Off the field, the veteran was named a captain, and head coach Mike Tomlin has said that he will be the starting quarterback for the entire season. Even in a postgame interview, Tomlin was asked if he will use the 10-day break to switch quarterbacks.
Asked Mike Tomlin if he considers making a change a QB or playcallers in the minibye— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) September 23, 2022
Tomlin: “definitively no.”
Now, this could be just the head coach hitting the podium after a tough loss, or it could be what Tomlin will stick with. There were times against Cleveland when Trubisky showed promise by making throws on the run and was bailed out by spectacular catches from his receivers. Legitimately, it raised the question of if their offensive performance was because of him or if is an offensive coordinator situation. Either way, his play wasn’t sustained coming out of the half, and the team lost. The other thing that may be in his favor is the upcoming opponents. They have the Jets in Week 4, the Buffalo Bills in Week 5, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 6, the Miami Dolphins in Week 7 and the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 8 before their bye week. Is that stretch really how you want a rookie to start his career? That would be a brutal lineup of games if he plays poorly. Pittsburgh could ride Trubisky to Week 10.
The case for Pickett
Tomlin has been careful about putting unnecessary attention on the quarterback position, which is fairly standard procedure for the veteran coach. Internal controversy rarely helps on the field. However, the show of confidence in Trubisky isn’t helping either.
Steelers have four touchdowns on 34 drives (11.8%) so far this season.— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) September 23, 2022
That would have been the worst rate in football a year ago, just below the Giants at 12.2%.
There’s no evidence at the moment to show Pickett is better than Trubisky. However, there’s also no evidence to show he’s worse. And Pickett has substantially more upside at this point in his career over Trubisky, who flamed out in Chicago and was a backup in Buffalo.
Speaking of Buffalo, the Steelers play the Bills in Week 5. If the offense continues like this, that game will be a blowout no matter how Pittsburgh’s defense plays. The Steelers have to know whether they have something in Pickett at quarterback, and Trubisky has gone 1-2 as the starter this season. He is a few Bengals missed kicks away from being 0-3. Tomlin wants to avoid controversy at all costs, but he’s going to have to address this position and the team’s offensive struggles at some point. It might as well be next week against a soft opponent. It’s more beneficial for the Steelers to get an evaluation on Pickett than it is to maintain Trubisky’s confidence as the starting quarterback. The Bears played this game for two full seasons and ultimately realized Trubisky wasn’t the answer. That’s two wasted seasons. The Steelers should learn from that experience and go with the guy they selected in the first round in Week 4 against the Jets.