Once quarterbacks get past the developmental stage of their career, they rarely morph into something brand new overnight. While a Ryan Tannehill comes around every so often, Mitchell Trubisky’s teetering stint with the Steelers is the latest example that a leopard usually doesn’t change its spots.
The Steelers didn’t expect Trubisky to be the quarterback of the future when they gave him a two-year deal in March, but reports made it clear he was the presumed starter even after Pittsburgh drafted Kenny Pickett.
In the same week the Steelers signed Trubisky, the Browns acquired Deshaun Watson and quietly signed Jacoby Brissett to a one-year deal as insurance. By most measures, Brissett has been a better quarterback than Trubisky this season. Cleveland’s offense still goes through its running game, but the Browns wouldn’t have been able to get past the Steelers on Thursday night without Brissett executing throws Trubisky couldn’t.
It’s not hard to see the logic by now-retired Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert in signing Trubisky. If Pittsburgh could reach the playoffs with Ben Roethlisberger, a younger, fairly mobile quarterback who was in a bad situation with the Bears could elevate the offense.
Trubisky is younger, and he’s much more mobile than Roethlisberger (not a very high bar). That just doesn’t outweigh his limitations as a passer and never has. In an offense that does him no favors, Trubisky’s arm simply isn’t enough to put the Steelers among the AFC’s contenders.
Kenny Pickett is going to be Pittsburgh’s quarterback in 2023, if not much sooner. Because the Steelers gave him a two-year deal, Trubisky will still have a $2.625 million cap hit if he’s released after this season.
If the team wants to get out of paying him even more than that, the switch to Pickett needs to happen by midseason. Trubisky is due a $1 million bonus if he plays 60 percent of snaps this season, and that figure rises to $4 million if he reaches 70 percent of snaps.
For a quarterback that may not be top-four in his own division, this all seemed avoidable.