Any time there exists turnover at a crucial position in the NFL, especially at quarterback, there are bound to be growing pains. After all, not every team can replicate what the Green Bay Packers have done, moving seamlessly from one Hall Of Fame QB in Brett Favre to another future one in Aaron Rodgers. For the Steelers, the last 18 seasons have provided them with stability under center, as their own future HOF QB was piloting the ship.
Now that he’s gone, the team has several contingency plans, including former #2 overall pick in 2017 by the Bears, Mitch Trubisky, and their own first-rounder via this year’s draft, Kenny Pickett. The “snake in the weeds” appears to be Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh’s third-rounder from 2018 who has reportedly looked great in training camp, despite lackluster past performances when pressed into game action. Earlier this morning, former Miami Dolphins and Pitt Panthers Head Coach Dave Wannstedt was a special guest on 93.7 The Fan’s Morning Show, and he was asked a question about the team’s current QB crop, specifically presumed-starter Trubisky. It’s safe to say, we can count him as a member of the fanbase.
“I was one of the few guys in Chicago that was a Mitch Trubisky fan, I’m gonna be honest with you,” Wannstedt said via 93.7 The Fan. “The intangibles are good.”
Often thrown under the bus for being drafted ahead of the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, all hasn’t been as bad as it may seem for his career thus far. He owns a career record of 29-21 as a starter, and was voted to his lone Pro Bowl appearance in 2018, after completing 66 percent of his passes for 3,223 yards, 24 touchdowns and 12 picks.
Perhaps more alluring to the front office in Pittsburgh is the fact that he also ran for 421 yards, which easily would rank fifth in a single season in franchise history by a QB, and the most since Kordell Stewart ran for 537 in 2001.
During that season, he also posted arguably his finest performances as a professional, throwing for 355 and three touchdowns, 333 and two touchdowns with 81 more rushing, and a 354-yard, six touchdown outburst. For Trubisky, the talent was never in question, it was about putting together more consistent play.
He had a knack in Chicago for not properly going through his progressions, and at times, liked to stare down his receivers, which never bodes well going against elite level secondaries. Also, the scheme under former head coach Matt Nagy has come under scrutiny as well, with others like Andy Dalton, Nick Foles and recently Justin Fields all experiencing similar struggles, thus costing Nagy his job.
Nagy and Mike Tomlin are about as polar opposite of head coaches as you can get though. Pittsburgh hasn’t experienced one losing season since Tomlin took over in 2007, and over that span, the Bears have perennially been mediocre, or just bad. Many analysts and talking heads are pointing to the upcoming season as a sinking ship for Tomlin, primarily due to the QB situation.
However, Wannstedt remembers fondly how after Trubisky’s rookie season, fans leaguewide were declaring him a bust as well. And if anyone can navigate waters like these, it’s Tomlin.
“Everybody wanted to get rid of him after one year, and I said, ‘they’re not using him correctly’. The guy’s got to use his athletic ability, the guy’s got to get the ball out quick. He can do the quarterback read stuff,” Wannstedt said via 93.7 The Fan. “I know this for a fact, he’s one of the first guys in, and one of the last guys to leave.”
To end things, Wannstedt was asked about the direction he’d take if Trubisky falters, and how long of a leash he’d give him, with Pickett (or Rudolph) waiting in the wings. His answer seemed to give a supreme vote of confidence to Tomlin though.
“It’s a tough one. Mike Tomlin will earn his money, trust me on that.”