The Pittsburgh Steelers have been aggressive in free agency to date, and the one area they were most aggressive was finding a quarterback. Within hours of the start of the legal tampering period the Steelers came to terms with free agent Mitchell Trubisky on a two-year contract.
The Steelers fan base was both excited and unsure of what they now had with Trubisky in the mix at the most important position in all of sport. Would he be a starter? Or will he just be competing with Mason Rudolph for the right to be “the guy” for the Steelers when fall rolls around?
One thing is certain, Trubisky’s pedigree of being a No. 2 overall draft pick has always been in question. When the Chicago Bears drafted Trubisky out of North Carolina, bypassing the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, lofty expectations fell on Trubisky’s shoulders. Things went south for the young quarterback in the windy city, but it makes you wonder if the issues were all him, or the team who drafted him?
I reached out to Josh Sunderbruch of Windy City Gridiron, the SB Nation Bears’ community, and asked him a series of questions regarding Trubisky. After all, those who covered him during his first four years would know him best.
Take a look at the answers below:
How much of Trubisky’s failures in Chicago do you place on the organization? Meaning, the coaching/team around him.
More than half of his struggles were due to forces outside of his control. He was given one of the worst receiver corps in the league in 2017, and he never really had a chance to settle into a consistent offense after that time. [Matt] Nagy’s inability to adapt scheme to quarterback is consistent—I mean, at some point if the system fails with multiple starting quarterbacks, it’s not the player, it’s the coach.
Additionally, he was always going to be a work in progress, and the [Mike] Glennon experiment meant he got thrown in with less than a year to prepare after only starting for a year in North Carolina. So, he was raw, surrounded by a weak offense, and put in a struggling and overly sophisticated system.
That’s not on him.
This is an aspect of the Trubisky story which doesn’t get talked about as much as most would have thought. Trubisky was thrown into the fire, with a system and team which wasn’t truly built for success. What happened was what the NFL world saw ... a quarterback who at times looked in over his head.
Likewise, how much of Trubisky’s failures fall on his shoulders as a quarterback?
Honestly? Probably just under half. He was not a finished product when he came to Chicago, and he never showed a grasp for nuanced football. He didn’t have the ability to make reads, and he struggled at times with playing hero ball.
He does not have “elite QB” talent. He has “good QB talent” and he tries to play like he’s better than he is.
Of course, not all of the blame for Trubisky’s failures in Chicago fall on the organization and coaching staff, but for those who don’t follow the NFC, or NFC North specifically, I wanted to know exactly what Trubisky’s strengths, and weaknesses were:
What would you say Trubisky’s strengths are, and what kind of offense he can thrive in?
Give Trubisky the chance to move and just enough time to complete intermediate passes and he can deliver. He can hit guys who are open and put them in the position to make plays. More than that, this kid can scramble and the stats back up how he is more than okay under pressure.
Scripted plays and simplified reads are his friends.
His intangibles are also strong. His teammates loved him, and he did everything the organization asked him to do and seldom complained. Absolute team player. He does not quit, and he’ll take a hit and get back up as if nothing happened.
What would be the weaknesses in his game?
He cannot read a defense. Just...can’t. There’s a myth he can’t complete the deep ball, but he can if, big if, he knows where to go with it. He’s also better under pressure than a lot of quarterbacks. However, he needs to learn how to read defenses better, and at this point I wonder if it’s ever going to click for him. As I mentioned, he plays hero ball a lot, and he’ll take sacks he should avoid—especially short sacks where he should just throw it away.
After a year with the Buffalo Bills, one where his hype only grew, the question I had for someone who covered him for four seasons was if he believed it would even matter? Could he actually get better without playing?
Do you think one year away, as a backup, can truly change a quarterback?
I want to say yes. I will say this—if he is given the chance, Trubisky will do everything in his power to improve. He probably tried as hard as he could to learn during that year in Buffalo, because this guy has a great attitude. I am afraid, though, he just doesn’t have the extra mental gear he needs to really ever be more than slightly above average.
It’s going to come down to whether or not an offense can be scripted for him that lets him play within himself. He’s probably a Top 40, not Top 20 quarterback at the moment. Taking that next step is going to take someone working with a kid who has physical gifts and a great work ethic, but whose sense of the game is consistently less than 3-dimensional. I’m pulling for him, though.
When it comes to Trubisky, there is a lot to like, and a lot which is up in the air. Nonetheless, the Steelers, and more importantly Matt Canada, are hoping to make something out of Trubisky. Is he the next heir apparent to the Steelers’ quarterback throne? That has yet to be determined, but he is certainly getting another shot, and that is something many quarterback can’t say they ever received.
A big shout out to Josh for answering my questions, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft.