Here’s a little historical reference before dissecting the Steelers’ decision to sign quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
On March 4, 2021, the Steelers reworked Ben Roethlisberger’s contract for one final season in the fall.
On March 18, Trubisky signed a contract to be the Buffalo Bills backup quarterback after getting no offers to be a starter following a release from the Chicago Bears.
Now, pretend at that moment, I had said, “Fret not, Pittsburgh! When Big Ben retires after this season, I believe the Steelers will sign Mitch Trubisky away from Buffalo to replace Roethlisberger in 2022. Rejoice!”
I would have been excoriated for even advancing that opinion. Appropriately, might I add.
Yet, here we are a year later. Trubisky has thrown only eight passes since then, and the Steelers did exactly that. They signed Trubisky to a two-year contract to (presumably) become the franchise’s next starter.
I feel multiple tweets disagreeing with the move. And I was excoriated for advancing that opinion.
Gee, it’s funny how perspectives change even though Trubisky’s performance never had a chance to do so.
I guess that’s the difference between Steelers theory and Steelers reality. Once pen goes to paper and you get a hypocycloid stamp of approval, the roads are paved with adoring Black and Gold fans wherever you may roam.
Well, until your first interception, of course. Then, forget all that.
Let’s be honest, the news of Trubisky’s signing was met with wild applause in Pittsburgh on Monday for one reason. Most Steelers fans have no faith that incumbent quarterback Mason Rudolph can capably replace Roethlisberger, and Trubisky isn’t Rudolph.
Well, except that in a lot of ways, he actually is.
Trubisky’s career completion percentage is 64.1. Rudolph’s is 61.5.
Rudolph averages 6.2 yards per attempt. Trubisky averages 6.7.
In his last year as a starter, Trubisky was 6-3 for the Bears. Rudolph was 5-3 for the Steelers in 2019.
So, I’ll agree with the masses that Trubisky is a little bit better. Plus, he is more athletic, has more experience and has the pedigree of being an actual first-round draft choice, and not just the Steelers nonspecific tag of giving Rudolph “a first-round grade.”
Fine. So, what does that translate to in terms of win total for 2022? What were you thinking with Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins manning the ship in Pittsburgh this fall? Six or seven wins after scratching their way to nine a season ago?
That would’ve been my prediction.
What will Trubisky get them if he stays healthy all year? Eight or nine wins and, in a best-case scenario, another first-round blowout loss in the playoffs?
If Rudolph or Haskins quarterbacks the Steelers to start 2022, the organization would have the worst starting quarterback in the division.
Would you put either of those two in front of Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson or Baker Mayfield? Jackson has been an MVP. Burrow might be one soon. And for as little as Pittsburgh seems to think of Mayfield, I still wouldn’t place him behind those two Steelers options.
Nor would I put him behind Trubisky. At least not the 2020 version of each player when Trubisky was still starting in Chicago and Mayfield wasn’t trying to play through a bad knee and shoulder.
So, if the Steelers are entering 2022 AFC North play still with the fourth-best quarterback in the division and unlikely to win double-digit games with any of those three options at quarterback, what’s the point of signing him? Why not take whatever money is being spent on Trubisky and spend it elsewhere?
Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network says that the contract is a two-year deal worth $14.25 million, with incentives that could reach $27 million. Indeed, that could end up being a pretty nice bargain initially.
For the sake of argument, let’s keep it easy and split that number in half and say it’s $7 million per year. What can that get you?
Well, what’s it going to take to retain cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon? Cameron Sutton is making $5.2 million if you want a comp. Trubisky’s number should cover that, leaving funds that would otherwise be spent on Witherspoon that can be used elsewhere.
As another point of reference, Joe Schobert is slated to make $8.75 million in cash in 2022 ($1.88 million dead cap charge). Maybe put the money toward an upgrade at inside linebacker. Currently, only five players on the Steelers roster have a cap hit higher than $7 million in 2022.
A popular rallying cry in Pittsburgh is that Trubisky is better than his Chicago resume indicates because recently fired Bears head coach Matt Nagy “ruined” him or “stunted his development.”
But current Steelers offensive coordinator, Matt Canada, who Pittsburgh fans usually eviscerate after every game, is going to be the guy that “fixes” Trubisky? Is that the narrative we are spinning?
Canada is portrayed by most fans as an under-qualified, over-exposed college coach who couldn’t make an offense work with a Hall of Famer under center. But because Trubisky can at least run a little and escape the horrid offensive line pass blocking, Canada’s true genius will shine through?
wow. A little Steelers pixie dust sure does go a long way in March, doesn’t it?
I’ve got nothing against Trubisky. I just don’t like the move. Mainly because I don’t see the need for it. It’s throwing numbers at a position that only needs one healthy starter and a capable backup.
My quarterback flow chart was to swing for the fences on Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson or Derek Carr. Based on how things turned out in each circumstance, I get why they didn’t.
My next option would’ve been to draft a first-round quarterback if they saw one they really liked. Perhaps they didn’t find one.
After that, I don’t see the value in muddling the quarterback position with a bridge quarterback like Trubisky. I keep seeing that phrase used to describe him. A “bridge QB.” I thought that’s what Rudolph was supposed to be when they gave him another year on his deal for 2022.
A bridge to what? Another Roethlisberger? Or another Cliff Stoudt?
The only thing I know about bridges in Pittsburgh is that they are often shut down, congested, occasionally catch fire and sometimes collapse.
If Trubisky is the guy we are talking about, I’m worried that the analogy is going to feel a little too accurate.
Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.