If Mitch Trubisky can read a defense as well as he can read a play, then maybe the Pittsburgh Steelers really have a diamond in the rough.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday for the first time (in person, anyway) after the first OTA practice, Trubisky appropriately addressed, deftly avoided or politely downplayed just about any question that might have ignited the bonfire of quarterback controversy that is sure to come once training camp and the preseason begins.
Trubisky or rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett as a starter? Trubisky or Mason Rudolph? Will Rudolph be a replacement or will he be traded in favor of retaining rookie Chris Oladokun? Pickett to start on Day 1, or even not dress on game days for a while?
If there’s any simmering tension on Trubisky’s part about the level of competition he’ll face after signing a free agent contract to presumably become the starting quarterback, he’s not showing it.
“It’s good,” Trubisky said of the dynamic in the quarter room. “We have two young guys and two veterans. There are a lot of conversations going on. We are all learning about the attack for the first time together. So we scramble. In competition. It’s been a good quarterback room so far. I’m enjoying it.”
Via Zoom shortly after signing in March, Trubisky also kicked off a competition with Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins as roster starters who were also vying to fill the gap under center created when Ben Roethlisberger retired.
In the months that followed, Haskins was killed while walking down a highway to fill up gas for his stalled car. Then the Steelers drafted Pickett and Oladokun.
The Steelers apparently had every intention of bringing four viable quarterbacks to camp before or after Haskins’ death, even after Trubisky’s decision to sign here in March. That spotlight became even brighter when Pickett was retired 20th overall from 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 add to the quarterback room, and that’s what we did. We are happy to have him and look forward to working with him.
For his part, Trubisky says he and the Steelers never had discussions about the prospect of the organization picking up a quarterback in the first round.
“We didn’t have those conversations, but I knew it was a possibility (for a rookie QB) to get in wherever I went next,” Trubisky said.
I find it hard to believe that such a subject has never been discussed, at least between Trubisky’s agents at Rep 1 Sports and the Steelers. Especially given how incentive-laden the second year of Trubisky’s contract is, wouldn’t they have hoped that Trubisky would only have to fight Rudolph and (at the time) Haskins for the starting point, as opposed to a potential future franchise signal caller?
I mean, nothing was to be set in stone or even a handshake under the table. A team is going to do what it wants to do if the draft committee surprisingly collapses, as it did for the Steelers. But the concept of never discussing it seems fishy, given that Trubisky has reportedly been coveted by other teams (like the New York Giants).
Either way, if Trubisky’s nose is off on the Steelers’ decision to take Pickett, he’s not showing it to the media.
“I knew that going into this situation, wherever I went, I was going to have to come in and compete; gaining the trust of my teammates on the field with hard work and my talent, and just (being) a leader on this team,” Trubisky said.
It looks like Trubisky has already gracefully maneuvered a potential moment of awkwardness. Known for his community spirit during his days in Chicago, Trubisky soon tried to put down roots in Pittsburgh, volunteering to appear at the children’s marathon. It was April 30. Less than two days after the Steelers drafted Pickett — Pitt’s hometown hero quarterback — to eventually be able to take the starting job before Trubisky had a practice rep.
But Trubisky attended the event and spoke about it on Tuesday, even though he knows some people may have viewed him as just the guy who isn’t Ben Roethlisberger…or the guy who just keeps the seat at the hot for Pickett.
“What I learned about Pittsburgh is that it’s a huge sports city. They are very welcoming and warm people,” said Trubisky. “I hope they get to know me as Mitch Trubisky. And we’ll take it one day at a time. I hope as this unfolds they get to know me, my family and me and who I am… in the community and the part that is on the ground as well.
According to linemen mason cole and Kevin Dotson, Trubisky opened initial training as a first-team quarterback on Tuesday. So maybe that made his diplomacy that much easier to sell. We’ll see if that’s still the case when training camp practices and pre-season begin.
At least off the court, Trubisky started his Steelers career making all the right decisions about what to say. For Steelers fans, I hope his decision making is as good when he delivers the ball.
Tim Benz is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Tim at email@example.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless otherwise specified.