On this morning’s edition of First Take on ESPN, noted Steelers fan and host Stephen A. Smith and his co-host, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, discussed several quarterback situations around the league, including the ones in both Pittsburgh and San Francisco. The segment highlighted which starting quarterback is more likely to be benched this season, Mitch Trubisky or Trey Lance, and the two sides, of course, had different takes on the matter.
Russo’s stance was that being a top-five draft pick back in 2021, the 49ers have more invested in Lance, so the leash on him will be longer than that of Trubisky, the notorious number two overall pick in 2017, ahead of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.
“He’s not that good, I mean we’ve got to be fair,” Russo said via ESPN’s First Take. “The Bears moved up to get him from North Carolina, he goes to Chicago, he’s not a big-time QB. You don’t know about Pickett, but you can’t start Pickett and then go to Trubisky and then go back to Pickett. So they’re going to let Trubisky see if he can maintain the season, be respectable and there’ll be a point in the year where they’ll play the kid from Pitt and see if he’s a quality NFL quarterback.”
He went on to continue with the fact that SF indeed knows what it has in Jimmy Garoppolo, while Pittsburgh doesn’t know what they have with Pickett. What Jimmy G owns is a 33-14 record as a starting QB in this league, including one Super Bowl appearance in 2019 and several other deep postseason runs, including a heartbreaking NFC Championship loss to the eventual Super Bowl winning Rams back in January.
What the team has in Kenny Pickett is maturity, mobility, an NFL arm to make all the necessary throws and the moxie that comes with starting 52 games in college, which he just so happened to play at Pitt. The Heisman finalist was sharp throughout the preseason, going 29 of 36 for 261 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, including a game-winning touchdown strike with three seconds left in the team’s win over Seattle.
However, none of this means much, as the preseason is an entirely different animal than the regular season. On one hand, you’re facing a mix of veterans and bottom-of-the-roster types, and on the other, you’re facing the likes of Myles Garrett, Micah Parsons and Aaron Donald.
“The fanbase is going to want to see him, he played right across the street,” Russo said. “Trubisky is going to be sort of a guy that’s going to hang around, Pickett will be in there before Garoppolo of the 49ers.”
On the flip side, Stephen A. Smith went with Lance being benched first, as the 49ers have a team built to win now, and knows Garoppolo has what it takes to guide the team deep into the playoffs. His choice of words for Pittsburgh were complimentary when describing their skill position players, but he laid waste to the team in regards to one unit of the team.
“The problem with the Pittsburgh Steelers is your offensive line, which basically was nonexistent last year, they were horrible, they were the worst running attack in football,” Smith said via ESPN’s First Take. “They haven’t had a running game since Mike Munchak retired. They are just that bad, so when I look at it from that perspective, I’m saying, if you’ve got questions at your offensive line, are you going to throw your rookie quarterback into that lion’s den, when he’s clearly the future?”
Smith also was a bit more open to the notion of seeing what Trubisky can do in his second stint as an NFL starter, albeit with a much more functionally stable franchise like Pittsburgh, as he ended the segment clearly pointing the finger at Chicago for Trubisky’s shortcomings.
“In the end, Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace, everybody accepts the fact that those dudes were the guilty culprits in the development of a Mitchell Trubisky, so we shall see, I think he’s going to get that chance with Tomlin.”