Why did the Steelers sign Mitchell Trubisky? Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement left void that needed to be filled

Common practice in the NFL is to always have a contingency at quarterback, particularly when a player is in the twilight of his career. When Ben Roethlisberger retired after last season, however, the Steelers were left without a proper replacement.

This offseason saw a lot of movement at the quarterback position — an unprecedented amount, in fact — but the Steelers were fairly quiet on the carousel. They didn’t seem to be involved in Deshaun Watson talks, their name hardly came up as a serious suitor for Russell Wilson, and by the time Matt Ryan’s name bubbled up the Steelers had signed Trubisky.

So, what was it the Steelers saw in Trubisky that made him a free agent pickup? While they do have Kenny Pickett waiting in the wings, the Steelers named Trubisky their starter and seem willing to stick to that plan. 

Incumbent Steeler Mason Rudolph is also there in Pittsburgh, but he never seemed to come up as a viable starting name.

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Why did the Steelers sign Mitchell Trubisky?

Trubisky’s career could be described as “strange” thus far. In two of his four seasons with the Bears, he made the postseason, and he made he Pro Bowl in 2018. Yet, Trubisky has never really gotten credit for team success, when normally the quarterback receives a disproportionate amount of credit.

With Trubisky, however, it seems teams must simply take the bad with the good. He went 29-21 as a starter in Chicago, and he threw for 2,650 yards per season in four years. He has 64 touchdowns to 37 interceptions, but despite the roller coaster, he never shook off the stigma he received from the Bears trading up to draft him second overall in one of the most baffling draft day moves in recent memory.

When Trubisky went to Buffalo, he was praised by the Bills staff for his willingness to learn and his consistent “ready-to-work” attitude. Clearly, the change of scenery was needed on both sides, as Trubisky laid out a not-so-veiled shot toward the Bears in his press conference with the Bills.

“It’s just really nice to be part of a great team and be somewhere where people want you here and they care about how you’re progressing as a person and as a player,” Trubisky said to press at that time. He later walked that comment back.

Sean McDermott said outright during Super Bowl week appearances Trubisky was “going to go be a starter” in 2022, per NFL.com. While it could have been posturing for compensatory picks, McDermott added Trubisky “earned” the ability to be a starter for taking a back seat to Josh Allen.

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When the Steelers signed Trubisky, he had good things to say about the organization.

“This is definitely where I wanted to be,” he said in March after signing a two-year deal in Pittsburgh, per Steelers.com. “Going through free agency with my agent we went through all of the options where I thought would be a great fit for me in the future. When we found out Pittsburgh had interest, I talked to my agent and said this is where I want to be. I thought it would be a great situation for me to come here. Luckily it worked out. I am happy to be here.”

Tomlin told the press Trubisky’s ability to win was a key aspect of signing him.

“He’s young and experienced,” Tomlin said in the offseason, per NFL.com. He’s won, to be quite honest with you he’s probably more than anybody that was kinda in the field. He didn’t draft us any draft capital and allowed us to maintain all our picks, and you guys know he we feel about building our team through the draft. So there was a lot of things about him that was attractive to us.”

Why did the Steelers draft Kenny Pickett?

Behind Trubisky on the depth chart, of course, is Pitt college alum Kenny Pickett.

The Trubisky experiment thus far has been rocky. He’s completed 59.2 percent of his passes through two games for 362 yards, two touchdowns, a pick. While it isn’t entirely on Trubisky, Pickett’s name is going to keep getting spoken louder and louder.

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Tomlin did nothing to quell the rumor mill in talking about Trubisky, as he gave him half a vote of confidence after Sunday’s loss to the Patriots this week in which the Steelers were booed by the home crowd.

“I’m going to exercise appropriate patience and continue to teach and ask the guys to continue to learn in an effort to continue to push this train down the track and get better,” Tomlin said Monday, via ESPN. “I think that if anyone is sitting here on Monday in Week 2 of this thing feeling happy, they’re probably wrong or misinformed.”

The playcalling for the Steelers has been conservative thus far, and when asked if Trubisky could be more aggressive, Tomlin was diplomatic.

“I think he could,” Tomlin said. “And we could.”

Things are off to a rocky start, but the Steelers are 1-1 and there is time to figure it out. On paper, there’s a good receiving corps in Pittsburgh in Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, and George Pickens. If Trubisky can’t find them, Pickett could be next up. The Steelers drafted the Pitt product as a contingency at quarterback, but it isn’t uncommon to see rookies get shots in the modern league.

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