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The Pittsburgh Steelers need the spark that only a top quarterback can provide

In this age of NFL parity, excellence at quarterback is a must.

Syndication: Akron Beacon Journal Jeff Lange / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won six Super Bowl championships — each and every one of them with an offense led by a stellar quarterback. Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger have plenty in common in the way they played the game. As young players, both No. 12 and No. 7 had the ability to make blitzing linebackers look silly, whether juking them to the turf or tossing them casually off of their backs. Not only were Terry and Ben tough dudes revered in the Steel City and throughout the NFL, but each possessed a rocket arm and the kind of accuracy that yielded some of the most spectacular plays in Steelers history.

In the wake of the black-and-gold’s second consecutive loss to middling teams unlikely to be found anywhere close to a Super Bowl this season, fans have been given unwelcome reminders of the overwhelming importance of the quarterback position. Quite simply, without a QB who consistently converts third downs and red zone opportunities, an NFL team cannot be a contender. In the job description, it’s not enough merely to be competent as a quarterback — you must be an extraordinary player.

So far in 2022, we haven’t seen anything extraordinary about the play of Mitch Trubisky. And even giving Mitch the benefit of some rising doubt, it should be obvious that Pittsburgh won’t beat anyone when converting only a single third down situation in nine attempts, as they did in losing to Cleveland.

If not for narrowly escaping defeat on opening day in Cincinnati, the Steelers easily might have been winless heading into Week 4. Because it’s a parity league, every NFL team today is loaded with talented players. What sets a team apart is whether they’ve got the trigger-man to consistently bring out the best in their offensive talent. And because Bradshaw and Big Ben each commanded this rare capability, six Super Bowl trophies are on display at Steelers headquarters.

Following the Steelers’ dismal defeat in Cleveland, Mike Tomlin mainly talked about the defense giving up big chunks of rushing yardage and allowing the Browns to possess the ball. While that’s true, it hardly absolves the offense from failing to move the sticks and giving the ball back to Cleveland throughout most of the second half. Disregarding the fluke Browns’ touchdown at the end of the game, they scored only 23 points. But all the Steelers offense could do with their opportunities during the final 30 minutes was a solitary field goal.

Some might prefer blaming the Steelers’ defense, the coaching staff or the absence of T.J. Watt, but what this team most lacks is a quarterback who can reliably put points on the scoreboard. If the Steelers don’t find that guy fairly soon, the other excuses for losing will be irrelevant.

Overall, the Pittsburgh Steelers have as much raw talent as any team in the league. But the one key player who hasn’t made an appearance on the field yet is the quarterback who looks like he can lead this team to a championship. In the few weeks ahead, we’ll need to see either far better performances by Trubisky or the much-awaited debut of Kenny Pickett. While we’ve already seen some substandard play in Weeks 1-3, the only truly unacceptable failure would be for the Steelers to go through the entire 2022 season without establishing any certainty at the quarterback position.