Tim Benz: Mitch Trubisky navigates the choppy waters of the Steelers QB situation with ease on Day 1



If Mitch Trubisky can read a defense as well as he can read a room, then the Pittsburgh Steelers might really have a diamond in the rough.

Speaking to reporters for the first time (in person, at least) after the first OTA practice Tuesday, Trubisky appropriately addressed just about every question, cleverly sidestepped or politely downplayed, that could have sparked the quarterback controversy campfire that will surely come once training camp and the pre-season begins.

Trubisky or first-round rookie Kenny Pickett to start? Trubisky or Mason Rudolph? Traded Rudolph as backup or in favor of rookie Chris Oladokun? Pickett to start on Day 1 or not even get dressed for a while on game days?

If there’s any simmering tension from Trubisky regarding the amount of competition he’ll face after signing a free-agent deal to presumably become the starting quarterback, he’s not showing it.

“It’s good,” Trubisky said of the dynamic in the quarterback room. “We have two young people and two vets. There are many ongoing conversations. We’re all learning offense together for the first time. So we push each other. Compete. It’s been a good quarterback room so far. I enjoy it.”

Via Zoom shortly after his signing in March, Trubisky similarly entered a contest with Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins as incumbents, who were also vying to fill the void under middle left by Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement.

In the months since, Haskins has been killed while walking down a freeway to get gas for his disabled car. Then the Steelers drafted Pickett and Oladokun.

The Steelers apparently had intentions of bringing four operational quarterbacks to camp before or after Haskin’s death, even after Trubisky’s decision to sign here in March. That spotlight was made all the brighter when Pickett was ranked 20th overall by Pitt.

Trubisky says he has no reason to feel like he’s playing in a different situation than he expected when he signed his contract.

“I really wasn’t surprised,” Trubisky said of the team’s decision to draft Pickett. “We needed to expand quarterback space, and we did that. We are lucky to have him and we look forward to working with him.”

For his part, Trubisky says he and the Steelers have never had discussions about the prospect of the organization drafting a first-round quarterback.

“We didn’t have those conversations, but I knew it was a way (for a rookie QB) to get into where I was going to go next,” Trubisky said.

I find it hard to believe such an issue has never been raised, at least between Trubisky’s agents at Rep 1 Sports and the Steelers. Wouldn’t they have hoped that Trubisky would only have to contend against Rudolph and (then) Haskins for the starting spot, especially given the many incentives in the second year of Trubisky’s contract, as opposed to a potential future franchise signal caller?

I mean, nothing needed to be set in stone or even a handshake under the table. A team will do what it wants to do when the draft committee erupts in a surprising way, as it did with the Steelers. But the concept of it never being discussed sounds fishy given that Trubisky has reportedly been coveted by other teams (like the New York Giants).

Regardless, if Trubisky’s nose is off the rails over the Steelers’ decision to pick Pickett, he’s not showing it to the media.

“I knew if I got into this situation, wherever I was going, I was going to have to come in and compete; With hard work and my talent, gaining the trust of my teammates on the field and just being a leader on this team,” Trubisky said.

It seems that Trubisky has already graciously maneuvered a potential moment of awkwardness. Known for being community-minded during his time in Chicago, Trubisky quickly attempted to root himself in Pittsburgh by volunteering to perform the children’s marathon. That was April 30th. Less than two days after the Steelers drafted Pickett — Pitt’s local hero quarterback — to potentially be able to take the starting job before Trubisky ever got a practice deputy.

But Trubisky ran the event and gushed about it on Tuesday, although he knows some people might just have viewed him as the guy who’s not Ben Roethlisberger … or the guy just keeping the seat warm for Pickett.

“What I learned about Pittsburgh is that it’s a huge sports city. They are very hospitable and warm people,” Trubisky said. “Hopefully they’ll only get to know me as Mitch Trubisky. And we take it one day at a time. Hopefully they get to know me and my family and what I’m about…in the community and out in the field as well.”

According to linemen Mason Cole and Kevin Dotson, Trubisky opened first practice as a first-team quarterback on Tuesday. Perhaps that made his diplomacy all the easier to sell. We’ll see if that’s still the case when training camp and the pre-season start.

Off the field, at least, Trubisky started his Steelers career by making the right decisions about what to say. Hopefully for Steelers fans, his decision-making is just as good when he’s delivering the ball.

Tim Benz is a contributor to the Tribune Review. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless otherwise noted.

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