By: Ryan Taylor
Mitch Trubisky is officially a potential predecessor of Ben Roethlisberger.
The former NVP (Nickelodeon’s Valuable Player… I love that) is signing a two-year deal with the Steelers for around $7 million per year – relatively good value for Trubisky.
After spending four years in Chicago, notably making a Pro-Bowl appearance in 2018, he spent the last season as Josh Allen’s backup in Buffalo. The former second overall draft pick in 2017 found a second chance to win a starting job in the NFL again.
But, I write this to increase the knowledge of Pittsburgh fans of their new quarterback as a fan who watched the first four of them very closely. The name “Trubisky” likely doesn’t hold a lot of positive connotation, but I’m here to provide the information Steelers fans should take into account before writing off their new QB1.
Need to know
Trubisky has talents at the quarterback position. He can run, he can throw on the move, and he can throw acutely from the pocket when he has time.
He also has his drawbacks. He’s not built to throw out of the pocket all the time. That’s something Matt Nagy never understood or attempt to for that matter. He also struggles with his decision-making and confidence.
Trubisky’s never been an above-average quarterback. In his four years in Chicago (the only relevant ones to evaluate) he ranked above average in two categories: touchdowns (threw for 24 in 2018) and completion percentage (67 percent in 2020).
Even in his standout, Pro-Bowl year in 2018, he ranked 16th in QBR. That season was a conglomerate of not just good quarterback play, but good playcalling and a defense that became a working offense. Nonetheless, he still wasn’t one of the best at the top of his game.
Bears fans will chime about Trubisky’s, Nagy’s, and Ryan Pace’s falters during their era controlling the Bears. But, after The Athletic’s story came out about the Bears’ treatment of Trubisky during his time in Chicago, it makes you think.
According to the story done by Kevin Fishbein and Adam Jahns, Trubisky “never checked any of the boxes for Nagy” from the start. After Trubisky’s failure season in 2019, one year after going 11-3 in his first full season, he wanted to meet with Nagy to discuss their plan of attack. Yet, Nagy “no-showed him.”
Trubisky hardly received productive treatment during his time in Chicago. This isn’t to make any excuses for him, but the coaches never set him up properly to succeed. Nagy undoubtedly didn’t take to him the minute they met when he was hired in 2018.
The offensive line was never prepared outside of 2018. In that season, the line allowed 33 sacks, good for ninth in the league, and was ranked the seventh-best pass-protection line in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders.
Nagy tried to make Trubisky into a pocket quarterback, hardly ever calling plays for him to run the ball. In the golden year of 2018, he ran the ball for 421 yards. After that, he never recorded a season with over 200 rushing yards.
While his on-field skills and weaknesses are noted by NFL fans, what Steelers fans don’t know is that Trubisky is a leader. Nick Foles, in the same article written by the Athletic, credited Trubisky as a favorite in the locker room. That likely goes the same for his time in Buffalo.
Trubisky is a hard-working, determined individual. He used to work out with Anthony Miller early in the summer, running routes and getting their chemistry together. He’s not afraid of the work ethic and he aspires to help his team win.
After four years in Chicago, Trubisky got to learn from one of the best quarterbacks in the league – Josh Allen. More, he also learned under the wing of Brian Daboll, who receives plenty of credit for making Allen into the quarterback he is today.
Now, he’ll spend time under Matt Canada, who is going into his second year as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator. Along with Canada, Mike Sullivan is their quarterback coach. Sullivan spent most of his career so far coaching Eli Manning through the prime of his career.
Bottom line – Steelers fans shouldn’t close the door on Trubisky just yet. He was the number two quarterback taken in 2017 for a reason. If he was in this year’s draft class, wouldn’t you take him as the first quarterback off the board?
Need to help
As aforementioned about Trubisky, he thrives, as other quarterbacks typically do, under a supporting staff. That means good weapons, good coaching and a good offensive line. The latter is likely the most important.
The Steelers went into last season with the 30th ranked PFF offensive line in the NFL. That has to change. Trubisky played under below-average offensive lines his entire career in Chicago except for in 2018. Look what happened that year, he threw the most yards, touchdowns and was sacked the least of his entire career.
Luckily, the Steelers got a head start at building the offensive line. They hired Trubisky’s former guard from Chicago, James Daniels, to a three-year deal. That’s a good start. Daniels is big and powerful. He can help right away on the line.
Najee Harris is also helpful in pass protection as an oversized running back. Add a little more juice to that line and Trubisky can help put balls in the endzone.
In terms of weaponry, it seems likely Juju Smith-Schuster will not return to the Steelers. But, that’s okay. Lance Zierlein of the NFL.com has the Steelers taking Kenny Pickett in his most recent mock draft. But, if Pittsburgh rides with Trubisky, they could take Drake London of USC of Chris Olave of Ohio State University in the first round.
I mentioned earlier that the coaches are in the early stages of their careers in Pittsburgh. Canada is going into his second year and Sullivan is his first. They need to put together a well-constructed offense that fits Mitch and the team.
Play action, RPOs and dump-offs are Trubisky’s game. A Kyle Shannahan-esque offense is his best fit. Small landmarks for ball movement and consistent, successful rushing attack take pressure off of Trubisky and allow him to make plays when needed.
Luckily, Harris thrived better than expected last season as a rookie with a bottom-tier offensive line. Use that to Trubisky’s advantage. Use him when you need to, but don’t be afraid to run the offense through Harris.
All in all, Pittsburgh should give Trubisky a chance. He’s not the sexiest signing, but he has potential. At 27, his outlook is likely that of Ryan Tannehill’s, which isn’t a bad thing. The Steelers do not have Derrick Henry, but they have a talented coaching staff and roster pieces that could make this transition entertaining and successful.