The Pittsburgh Steelers have a quarterback race for the first time since the early 2000s. As if the case with most topics surrounding the team, hearing the opinions of former players is always intriguing. Bryant McFadden, a two-time Super Bowl winning cornerback for the team, made a compelling argument for Mitchell Trubisky to win the starting job on the Maggie and Perloff Show on Monday.
“Because Trubisky, during his starting time as a starting quarterback in Chicago, it wasn’t a well-structured situation offensively,” McFadden stated when asked to elaborate about his tweet praising the quarterback. “The coach and the play calling wasn’t ideal, but Trubisky got them to the playoffs one year, and he finished with an above .500 record, 26-21. Understanding that, if you look at the structure in place, the staff, the personnel, Trubisky is in a better situation now in Pittsburgh than he was in Chicago, and he still won ball games in Chicago.”
When comparing Trubisky’s resume that McFadden highlights to a rookie in Kenny Pickett and a comparatively inexperienced Mason Rudolph, it’s easy to see why he is widely regarded as the front runner. While Trubisky’s play was shaky and by no means up to the standard of a second-overall pick, he did lead the Bears to a playoff berth and a 12-4 season (where he went 11-3 as a starter) in 2018, as well as coming back from being benched to lead them to a win-streak and Wild Card berth in 2020, where he had a 6-3 record as a starter. In Trubisky’s 2018 Pro Bowl season, his best statistical season, his top targets were receivers Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller and running back Tarik Cohen. While this is by no means a weak supporting cast, the Steelers’ receiving core is arguably better.
There is evidence to suggest that former Chicago Bears’ Head Coach Matt Nagy’s three years coaching Trubisky played a significant role in slowing down Trubisky’s development and hindering his confidence. There are reports that Nagy, who was not with the team when they drafted Trubisky, did not want him as the team’s quarterback, which was especially evident upon his 2020 benching of the quarterback. Additionally, quarterbacks Andy Dalton, Nick Foles, and Justin Fields all had similar struggles in Nagy’s system, providing further evidence for a fundamental problem with the offense that was bigger than Trubisky. Given Trubisky is now on a team that unquestionably wants him, he will have a better chance to showcase his full potential.
McFadden went on to talk about Trubisky’s 2021 season backing up Pro Bowl quarterback Josh Allen on the Buffalo Bills and its benefits for him.
“The thing about watching and learning is, you get a chance to see things from a different set of lenses,” McFadden continued when asked about Trubisky’s one-year tenure with the Bills. “Being in that offense, sitting and learning behind Josh Allen, a guy who’s up and coming in the National Football League, I think it actually helped Trubisky. Now, he sees things from a different situation. Remember when he got to Chicago, he was kind of forced into action, ready or not. He got a chance to sit and learn. Learn mentally, grow mentally.”
If one quarterback’s career arc is the ideal trajectory of a coaching staff getting the most out of a player like Trubisky, it’s Allen. Initially, Allen looked like a raw prospect and struggled immensely, much like Trubisky did. However, Allen’s coaching staff remained patient with his development, and it paid off immensely for the team and the player. While Allen’s confidence continued to grow, Trubisky’s was stunted early on due to being benched.
Trubisky’s coaching staff and teammates spoke highly of him after his one-year tenure with the Bills, with Head Coach Sean McDermott directly endorsing him. So far in practice, Trubisky looks every bit as the mature and confident player that the Bills describe him as, and not much like the 2020 player that was benched and playing for a regime that did not want him.