Mitch Trubisky had been functioning as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-team quarterback for the entire offseason. As a reflection of typical preseason play, his starting status more or less prevented him from seeing an opportunity to work in the two-minute offense, at least until tonight, when head coach Mike Tomlin played the starters for the entirety of the first half.
Indeed, he made it very clear in his post-game remarks that that was a factor in his decision-making about how long the starters would stay in tonight’s game. “Getting Mitch and that group an opportunity to execute two-minute was a component”, he said after the game, via the team’s website.
And fortunately, it went well, although Tomlin would have liked to have seen some more adverse circumstances when he took the field. The offense fielded the ball with 1:34 to play, from their own eight-yard line in fact, so it’s not as though he had smooth sailing. But he did have three timeouts.
“It was good to get Mitch a two-minute drive. He hadn’t had that exposure and we had talked about that earlier in the week”, Tomlin said. “It was good to get the execution there. I would have liked it to be a little bit more challenging from a timeout perspective, but we got what we were looking for”.
In other words, they got a touchdown. Trubisky connected with wide receiver Steven Sims on first and goal from the six, set up by a deep completion to tight end Pat Freiermuth on the previous play to get them into the red zone, a 32-yard connection. It was one of a couple of deep throws he connected on during the half, including one to Diontae Johnson that unfortunately resulted in him leaving the game with a shoulder injury.
As you know, the Steelers signed Trubisky as an unrestricted free agent in March following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger. Even though they drafted Kenny Pickett in the first round the following month, the veteran consistently held court as the first-team quarterback and never relinquished that spot, even if he had some up-and-down play at times.
But if there were any questions heading into tonight’s game, that final drive solidified what had long been accepted as the near-inevitable outcome, that being Trubisky’s status as the opening-day starting quarterback.
In all, he completed 15 out of 19 passes for 160 yards on the day, including the last-minute touchdown to Sims. He went the whole preseason—indeed, the entire team did—without throwing an interception, made more notable by the fact that they did not get great pass protection, and so thus were throwing under duress more often than is cared for.
Tomlin routinely stresses situational football, so it’s no surprise that he wanted to make sure he got his new starting quarterback into that situation at least once before the regular season. Trubisky got plenty of work in the ‘seven shots’ drill in training camp, and in two-minute simulations, but in-stadium work is always weighed more heavily, and this final drive had some heft to it.