If you’re tired of seeing Mitch Trubisky take meaningful snaps for the Pittsburgh Steelers, then you might want to avoid watching him line up as the starter against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 15 of the 2023 NFL season.
At least for one more week, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft will be the man under center as the Steelers try to right the ship following consecutive home defeats to 2-10 squads.
Kenny Pickett? Still recovering from his ankle injury. Mason Rudolph and Trace McSorley? Still watching from the sidelines.
Brace yourselves, Steelers fans, but Trubisky remains QB1.
Mike Tomlin Makes Pittsburgh’s Plans Clear at Quarterback
Some NFL coaches employ gamesmanship by leaving multiple possibilities open early in the week, essentially forcing the opposition to prepare for numerous sets of skills under center. Mike Tomlin, though, is choosing the straightforward approach as he and the Steelers get ready for a crucial clash with the Colts.
In his Monday press conference, posted on the Steelers’ YouTube channel, Tomlin immediately ruled Pickett out for Sunday’s game. The second-year quarterback is still recovering from surgery to treat his latest ankle injury, suffered on a third-and-goal scramble in the second quarter of the Week 13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
But the head coach, now operating amid plenty of speculation about his own job status, didn’t stop there.
“Mason [Rudolph] will get an opportunity to get some reps,” he told reporters about whether the third-stringer-turned-second-stringer will get some first-team practice run this week. “… Last week, there were a limited amount of reps for all parties involved, and so he certainly will get more opportunity this week from a preparation standpoint.”
No matter how well those reps go, though, Rudolph won’t be put in a position to supplant Trubisky. When reporters asked if he would be given an opportunity to compete for the starting job, Tomlin shut down any potential quarterback controversy.
“He’ll get an opportunity to get some work, and we’ll evaluate that work and evaluate his readiness,” the head coach explained. “But we’re not opening up competition and things of that nature. It’s just not an environment for that as we work.”
Trubisky Hasn’t Excelled as the Lead Pittsburgh Quarterback
(THREAD) So many issues on the Trubisky's Interception that you could write a book on it.
NE shows MOFC pre-snap and rotates to MOFO post-snap.
The OL is sliding opposite the simulated pressure so they effectively get 2 on the back and Warren doesn't pick up either. pic.twitter.com/SFXVcwXzFL
— Derrick (@Steelers_DB) December 9, 2023
Tomlin can sing his praises all he wants—or at least avoid opening the door to speculation about Rudolph as QB1—but Trubisky hasn’t looked the part of a legitimate starting option.
He made three appearances in relief of Pickett earlier in the season, but none of them led to victories.
First came a 3-of-5 showing against the Houston Texans at the tail end of a blowout. Then he stepped in against the Jacksonville Jaguars and completed 15 of 27 passes for 138 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in a 20-10 defeat.
He performed more efficiently after replacing Trubisky near the end of the first half against the Cardinals, going 11-of-17 for 117 yards and a score, but he couldn’t get the job done against a seemingly overmatched squad that entered the night with just two victories.
Trubisky drew his first start against the New England Patriots on Thursday Night Football in Week 14, and he followed the general pattern the franchise has established on Thursdays. Lowlighted by a set of bizarre misfires on crucial fourth-down opportunities (one check-down pass short of the sticks and one massive overthrow of Diontae Johnson), he hit on 22 of his 35 passing attempts but recorded just 190 yards, two touchdowns (one through the air and one on the ground) and an interception while leading his team to only 18 points.
Tomlin Either Sees Promise or a Lack of Alternative Options
Tomlin said it's "reasonable" to expect Mitch Trubisky to be better for the game at Indianapolis on Saturday.
— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) December 11, 2023
“[It’s] a reasonable expectation for him to be even better because of that [Week 14] experience and because of the experience of having a full week’s prep,” Tomlin said about Trubisky in Monday’s press conference.
That’s unequivocally a valid line of thinking.
Trubisky was originally tasked with scrambling to find his helmet for an injury-mandated in-game change. Then he was given a short week to prepare for Bill Belichick and the Patriots, which is always a challenge from a game-planning perspective given the hoodie-wearing head coach’s strategic prowess.
Now, the quarterback who Tomlin said “picked up his play as the [New England] game wore on” has three extra days to get ready for the Colts. Improvement should be expected.
On the flip side, Tomlin is also dealing with a deck of cards stacked against him.
Saying nothing of Pickett’s promise, or lack thereof, in his second professional campaign, Trubisky has long shown he’s a serviceable backup who doesn’t have the consistent decision-making necessary to embark upon a winning season as a starter.
Mason Rudolph got blasted by franchise legend Ben Roethlisberger, who questioned why he’s been invisible despite spending so much time in Pittsburgh. Trace McSorley has thrown 93 NFL passes since entering the league as a sixth-round pick in 2019.
Can a quarterback controversy exist when none of the options are particularly promising?
Tomlin has to start someone, and Trubisky, limited as he may be, has the best track record by a mile. Building up his confidence by refusing to allow for any possibilities of competition may be the only option the head coach has when dealt an offsuit 10 and two.