Through two starts as the Steelers’ quarterback, Mitch Trubisky has been unimpressive. Could Thursday Night’s primetime matchup with the division rival Cleveland Browns be his last shot as a starter?
I’d like to make it clear that I don’t believe the offense’s struggles are solely at the hands of Mitch Trubisky. Change at offensive coordinator has been something that fans have been clamoring for since last year’s offense was nothing short of abysmal. The problem is that the Steelers’ front office seems to trust the process with their assistant coaches much longer than they should, resulting in disappointment. With that being said, it’s unlikely we will see changes made to the coaching staff until this offseason at the very earliest, and much more likely that change at the quarterback position could be on the horizon.
The Steelers’ Offensive Woes
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense has been dreadful to watch for a couple years now. 3rd and long tends to be an impossible task for the Steelers, and is often the fuel for my nightmares. Obviously there are many factors that go into having a successful offense. The three most important being, in my opinion, a competent and creative offensive coordinator, an opportunistic offensive line, and a quarterback that can stretch the field. The Pittsburgh Steelers seem to have none of those at this point and it showed Sunday afternoon against the New England Patriots in a disappointing loss.
Pittsburgh’s offense so far this season is averaging a lackluster 172 passing yards per game, 255 total yards per game, and have only been able to produce a mediocre 18.5 points per game. All of these rank near the bottom of the league, and are not promising signs going into the rest of the 2022 campaign. That’s what happens when your offense is as conservative as it gets and you have a quarterback that isn’t showing any aggression or splash play capabilities.
In the words of the great Steelers’ Coach Bill Cowher on Sunday’s CBS halftime show, “Mitch Trubisky is more worried about not making mistakes than he is about making plays.” That is exactly what we’ve seen from Trubisky and this offense. And on top of that, mistakes are still being made. Off target passes on deep balls, staring down receivers, and missing open guys crossing the field in favor of a two yard check down is what the Steelers’ veteran quarterback has given us so far. We saw it last week against the Bengals as well when Trubisky missed both Myles Boykin and George Pickens on potential game changing deep passes.
Unfortunately for Mitch Trubisky, the situation he has stepped into as Ben Roethlisberger’s replacement was never going to be a fair or easy one. In order to hold off the questions about when Kenny Pickett would see the field, Mitch would have needed back to back elite performances, and that just wasn’t realistic. The rookie quarterback waiting for his time to shine typically gets the fans excited for what could be, as opposed to the veteran looking to revive his career. We saw that on Sunday as the “Kenny! Kenny! Kenny!” chants were out in full force, along with the boo birds heckling the offensive unit out of frustration after each failed drive.
Who’s More To Blame?
Matt Canada’s offense with the Steelers has been ineffective and excruciating to watch since he became Offensive Coordinator. Short passes, very few middle of the field throws, and a running game that rarely gets going is what Steelers fans have grown accustomed to as of late. It would not be fair to criticize Mitch Trubisky without also talking about the man in charge of the offense. Last year, criticism of Canada’s offense were held off by claims that he needed a mobile quarterback in order for his system to be effective. He now has that in Mitch Trubisky and the results are no different.
17 passes within six yards of the line of scrimmage just isn’t going to get the job done, especially with the skillset that the Steelers’ offensive weapons have. Not only that, but Matt Canada and Mitch Trubisky have seemingly forgotten about Chase Claypool and George Pickens. Two of the most talented members of the offense are not getting the ball, or even looked at really. Steelers’ receivers not named Diontae Johnson have combined for ten catches for 70 yards and zero touchdowns on just 18 targets.
To make things worse, there is a growing sense of frustration brewing in the offensive huddle. Multiple times during the game Sunday, you could see Diontae Johnson throw his hands in the air after beating his man, and not getting the ball thrown his way. I do not blame him one bit for the way he feels. I can’t imagine Claypool or Pickens are any more thrilled to be left out of the offensive game plan almost entirely either. To add more fuel to the flame, Trubisky seemingly took shots at Matt Canada when asked why the team wasn’t throwing the ball to the middle of the field.
“What needs to happen with more down the field passing and over the middle passing with this offense?“
“Call concepts to get receivers there. When the coverage dictates that, get them the ball within that.”
On the surface this feels like a slight jab from Trubisky to Matt Canada’s game plan. At the end of the day, the problem with the offense is a collective issue and not just on any one person. However, It seems as if Mitch may be the first piece to fall.
Thursday Night’s Implications
A loss to the Cleveland Browns Thursday Night as the nation watches would be an awful look for the team, and I’m sure it would be due to the offense struggling once again. Mike Tomlin typically tends to stick to his guns and live with the consequences of his decisions, but a loss to Cleveland may be cause for a new approach. Cleveland’s defense is no slouch, and the Pittsburgh Steelers need every divisional win that they can get.
Should Trubisky fail to once again be the spark the offense needs, I feel as if his time as the starter would come to an end the following week, and fans will finally get the first look at the Kenny Pickett era in Pittsburgh. Whether it’s the right decision or not, the team doesn’t have time to continue fielding a subpar offense week after week.
Like I said in the beginning, providing a long term solution for the offense will require change at multiple decisions, but the most realistic one right now would be a change at quarterback.