The Pittsburgh Steelers are at the point in the NFL offseason where evaluating their own roster is priority No. 1. That would mean not just their pending free agents, but also players who they might want to cut/release due to salary cap reasons.
One name which has been tossed around a lot since the season ended was once starting quarterback, now back up quarterback, Mitch Trubisky.
Trubisky is due to make $8 million dollars in 2023, and count over $10 million towards the team’s salary cap next season. A lot of money for a back up quarterback, but after a season where Kenny Pickett was out of the lineup more than once with the NFL’s concussion protocol, there is a lot of value in the back up signal caller.
With Trubisky under contract, most fans would assume he is preparing himself for back up duty, again, in 2023. But it might not be this simple. Not only do the Steelers have to decide if they want to pay Trubisky that much, but also if Trubisky wants to remain in Pittsburgh as nothing more than the primary back up quarterback.
This per Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
The Steelers have to decide if they want to pay a backup quarterback $8 million in salary (not counting incentives) and have him count $10.625 million against the salary cap in 2023. That would make Trubisky, 28, among the highest-paid backups in the league, if not the highest.
And Trubisky has to decide if he wants to forget the disappointment and discontent of what happened in 2022 and accept what would be the highest single-season payday of his seven-year career.
This is the point where some fans would say, “He’s under contract, it doesn’t matter what he thinks of being a back up.” In a sense, this is true, but Trubisky also has the power to ask the team for his outright release. Plenty of players have done this before, hoping to land in a spot where they can compete for a starting job.
When you considering the overall career arch for Trubisky, you have to believe he is hoping for one last chance to be a starter, and that chance isn’t likely to happen in Pittsburgh. There is a strong chance Trubisky sees this as his last opportunity to get that shot.
However, this is all under the assumption the Steelers want Trubisky back, and to pay him at his current rate. The Steelers can’t restructure Trubisky’s contract considering he is in the final year of his current deal. The only way to get that cap hit to come down would be to give him a new contract, likely in an extension, and turn some of his salary into a signing bonus.
All of that is very unlikely to happen.
So, what would the Steelers do if Trubisky says he wants out, and tells the organization he won’t report in 2023? The team could have no option but to try and trade him before releasing him. If that does happen, Dulac already has a name which the Steelers were interested in last offseason before signing Trubisky on the first day of the legal tampering period.
If the situation with Trubisky changes, the Steelers would have to find a capable backup with starting experience for Pickett. And a possibility is former Cleveland Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett, whom the Steelers considered last year before signing Trubisky.
Brissett is familiar with the Steelers system because he played at North Carolina State (2013-2015) when Matt Canada was the offensive coordinator there. Also, Steelers running backs coach Eddie Faulker and receivers coach Frisman Jackson were members of that staff. Brissett, who signed a one-year, $4.65 million deal with the Browns last season, started 11 games while Deshaun Watson served a suspension.
What this all boils down to is the Steelers and Trubisky will have to all be on the same page and on board with not just the role on the team, but the pay at which Trubisky is receiving. It seems like a smart move to keep Trubisky, but these waters are anything but clear.
If Trubisky does want out of Pittsburgh, it’s likely he, or his agent, will make this information publicly known before the start of free agency (March 13th). At the end of the season, it was Trubisky who said he regretted signing with the Steelers on the first day of free agency a year ago. Instead, taking a more patient approach to the process.
“Everything happened kind of quick,” Trubisky told Brooke Pryor of ESPN. ”I didn’t really have a long time to think of the decision. I wish I would’ve taken some more time and not just signed the first day of free agency. Looking back on it, just try to do some more research. But I felt like they were interested. I felt like it was a good opportunity to possibly get back on the field, but nothing’s guaranteed.”
Will Trubisky be back with the Steelers in 2023? There are a lot of moving parts, and nothing seems to be determined at this juncture of the offseason.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the NFL offseason.