If Mitch Trubisky can read a defense as well as a room, then the Pittsburgh Steelers may really have a diamond in the rough.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday for the first time (at least in person) after the first OTA drill, Trubisky appropriately responded, deftly sidestepped or politely downplayed just about any question that could have sparked the quarterback controversy campfire that certainly once will come training camp and the preseason begins.
Will Trubisky or rookie pick Kenny Pickett as the starter in the first round? Trubisky or Freemason Rudolph? Rudolph to be a backup or to be traded in favor of keeping rookie Chris Oladokun? Pickett to start on day 1 or not even get dressed for a while on match days?
If there’s any smoldering tension from Trubisky regarding the amount 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 dynamics in the quarterback room. “We have two young guys and two vets. There are many ongoing conversations. We all learn the 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 March signing, Trubisky similarly embraced competition with Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins as incumbents who also vie to fill the void below the center left when Ben Roethlisberger retired.
In the months that followed, Haskins was killed while walking on a highway to get gas for his disabled car. Then the Steelers lined up Pickett and Oladokun.
The Steelers apparently planned to bring four roster-viable quarterbacks to camp before or after Haskins’s death, even after Trubisky’s decision to sign here in March. Those spotlights got all the brighter when Pickett was taken out of Pitt the No. 20 overall.
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 was really not surprised,” Trubisky said of the team’s decision to draft Pickett. “We needed to add something to the quarterback room, and we did. We’re happy with him and look forward to working with him.”
For his part, Trubisky says he and the Steelers have never had any discussions about the prospect of the organization drafting a first-round quarterback.
“We didn’t have those conversations, but I knew it was an opportunity (for a rookie QB) to come in wherever I went,” Trubisky said.
I find it hard to believe that such a topic has never been brought up, at least not between Trubisky’s agents at Rep 1 Sports and the Steelers. Especially given the boost that is the second year of Trubisky’s contract, weren’t they hoping that Trubisky would have to fight Rudolph and (at the time) Haskins for the starting spot alone, as opposed to a potential future franchisee?
I mean, nothing had to be etched in stone or even a handshake under the table. A team goes to do what it wants to do when the design board shakes apart in surprising ways, like the Steelers did. But the concept of it never being discussed sounds weird considering Trubisky was reportedly coveted by other teams (like the New York Giants).
Anyway, if Trubisky’s nose is out of line over the Steelers’ decision to get Pickett, he won’t show it to the media.
“I knew I was going to be in this situation, wherever I go, I would have to join in and compete; earn the trust of my teammates on the field with hard work and my talent, and (be) just a leader in this team,” Trubisky said.
It seems that Trubisky has already mercifully maneuvered a potential moment of awkwardness. Known for his community spirit during his Chicago days, Trubisky tried to establish himself quickly in Pittsburgh by volunteering to appear on the children’s marathon† That was April 30. Less than two days after the Steelers called on Pickett—the local hero Pitt quarterback—to potentially be in position to take the runway before Trubisky ever had a practice rep.
But Trubisky did the event and gushed about it Tuesday, though he knows some people may have seen him as just the guy who isn’t Ben Roethlisberger… or the guy who just keeps the seat warm for Pickett.
“What I’ve learned about Pittsburgh is that it’s a huge sports city. They are very hospitable and warm people,” said Trubisky. “Hopefully they just get to know me as Mitch Trubisky. And we take it daily. Hopefully they will get to know me and my family and what I stand for… in the community and also on the pitch.”
according to linemen Mason Cole and Kevin DotsonTrubisky opened first practice on Tuesday as the first-team quarterback. So maybe that made his diplomacy all the easier to sell. We’ll see if that’s still the case by the time the training camps and preseason begin.
Off the field, Trubisky started his career with Steelers by making the right decisions about what to say. For Steelers fans, hopefully he’s just as good at making decisions as he is delivering the ball.
Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter† All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless otherwise noted.