Mitch Trubisky is getting another shot in the NFL as a starting quarterback. Not a bad feel-good story for Week 1. It’s hard to be the first quarterback taken at No. 2 in a draft in which Patrick Mahomes was selected eight picks later, especially being that his career has, in most ways, gone the opposite direction.
However, on that day it was impossible to know that Mahomes would turn into one of the greatest NFL players of all time, although I believe it was still clear when both players were in college that Mahomes was a better player. Me being far from the only person who believed that Trubisky was worse than the two Pro Bowlers selected behind him — Mahomes and Deshaun Watson — he did not receive a warm reception when the Chicago Bears traded up one spot in order to select Trubisky. He was booed at a Chicago Bulls playoff game the following night.
Trubisky took over four games into the 2017 season. He threw seven touchdowns, seven interceptions, and completed 59.4 percent of his passes at 6.6 yards per attempt. Not at all an impressive performance, but it was hard to judge him because the Bears were so bad that year. In 2018 he replaced Jared Goff in the Pro Bowl and the Bears finished with the second-best record in the NFC. Then in a playoff game against the Eagles, the Bears scored six points through the first three quarters, and didn’t score a touchdown until near the nine-minute mark of the fourth.
From then on his career went into a tailspin. His performance was picked apart every week as the Bears’ offense struggled to score. In Trubisky’s three full seasons as a starter, the Bears never finished with a record under .500, but some of those games were painful to watch. He attempted 516 passes in 2019 and still only threw 17 touchdowns. Lamar Jackson was the last pick of the first round in 2018, and in 2019 he threw 36 touchdowns with only 401 pass attempts.
It was clear that Trubisky’s confidence was leaving him, but his coach deserves a big portion of the blame. Matt Nagy consistently failed to put him in the best positions to succeed. He didn’t roll Trubisky out enough, rarely used tempo, and called way too many straight drop-back passes. The same problem presented itself last season in Justin Fields’ starts, and that is a major reason why the Bears have a new head coach.
This new arrangement Trubisky has with the Steelers is likely not going to make it to the altar. It’s a rebound relationship. The Steelers and their longtime quarterback Ben Roethlisberger parted ways, and they need someone to help them get back in the game until someone better comes along (See Kenny Pickett).
Trubisky is a fling for now. The Steelers are hoping their next long-term quarterback is indeed Pickett, who toward the end of training camp was playing some impressive football. There was a possibility that he could push Trubisky out of that starting job for Week 1, but Mike Tomlin announced on Wednesday that the job belonged to Trubisky.
It’s not a terrible decision for the Steelers, and they have a player to quickly replace Trubisky if the season starts poorly. For Trubisky, after a season as a backup for the Buffalo Bills, he got another shot to be a starter, but if he doesn’t play well, he may never again be an NFL franchise’s intentional starting quarterback.
The Steelers have their problems — offensive line, defensive depth — but they also have more skill-position talent than Trubisky ever had with the Bears. He is also going to play in a run-heavy offense that’s going to rely on a lot of RPOs and play-action. There won’t be many five-step dropbacks for an entire second half anymore.
Trubisky found himself in a great place to try and rebuild his career. Also, Pickett is a late first-round pick. There is a chance Trubisky can win the job from him permanently. If not, maybe he plays just well enough that a team in need of a veteran quarterback comes calling next season and he will be able to get into at least the $20 million per club.
Well, it’s a whole new world for the 2017 No. 2 overall pick. He just better find his place in it quickly, or he will find himself carrying clipboards for an entire career.