The opening day of a most curious Pittsburgh Steelers season is finally upon us. It’s all so…new…to us.
A new quarterback. New coaching. New general manager and several shiny, brand new players. We’ve even got a new stadium sponsor. Did we ask for that by the way?
Regardless. The whole team is completely refurbished.
So how will the Steelers perform in this year of radical change?
As it turns out, you will have the answer to this question much sooner than you could ever imagine. The big reveal will happen a mere thirty minutes into the season against the Cincinnati Bengals.
How will you decipher this answer? The Spin secret decoder ring will be shared with you towards the end of this column. (It’s the only way I could convince most of you to read past the first few paragraphs of this drivel.)
In the meantime, we must address the most critical breaking news of the year for the Steelers. What do we think about the team’s choice to replace Ben Roethlisberger as the future quarterback?
To unveil this mystery and so much more, let’s give it a Spin.
The Quarterback? Obviously…
In one of the least dramatic announcements in the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mitch Trubisky was named the opening day starting quarterback for the team.
If you’re looking at me now, you would be witnessing my “super surprised” face. “Really? That’s who Coach Mike Tomlin chose? I would have never figured as much.”
Now, before you accuse me of being one of those ridiculous “get rid of Tomlin” clowns circling around in a miniature fire truck, I would ask you to reference two Spins prior. In that illuminating edition (they all are, you should know), I spoke in such glowingly positive terms about Tomlin that if either Mother Teresa or Mahatma Ghandi read it they would have said, “Why doesn’t anyone ever say such nice things about us?”
The decision to choose Trubisky as the starter is such a predictably Tomlinesque move, I would have felt comfortable chiseling it in the base of a Michelangelo sculpture the day the “chased out of Chicago” quarterback signed his new Pittsburgh contract.
Tomlin must have been one of those kids who would put ants under a magnifying glass just to see them twist and burn. Except, that now it’s the Steelers fanbase that are the ants with many of his decisions.
“Who do the people want as their starting quarterback?” Tomlin asks rhetorically.
“Well…Coach, it sounds like 60,000 people are simultaneously chanting his name.”
“Got it,” Tomlin says. “Trubisky, chin strap on…you’re in.”
It’s one of those “coachey-type”, locker room satisfying decisions in going with the “experienced veteran” that you expect from Tomlin. It’s part of why he excels at weaving together excellent regular season records.
And it’s also more evidence of a lack of the Riverboat Gambler approach that is needed to ultimately earn Super Bowl trophies.
You’ve got to be willing to lay down those stacks of chips if you want to win big.
It’s not like we signed Patrick Mahomes or even Russell Wilson to compete for the starting role. This is Trubisky, who isn’t on anyone’s top twenty quarterback list and who been placed squarely as the 32nd on more than a few of the pundits’ rankers.
But you say, “You can’t judge him on the past. After all, the Chicago Bears had a poor offensive line and sub-par offensive coordinators.”
I’m not sure that Tomlin is doing Trubisky any favors. He’ll only need to string a few errant tosses in a row before the home faithful will be breaking out their “Kenny…Kenny…Kenny” chants in B minor.
Nah. If you want to really to have a chance of competing deep into the postseason, you’ve got to have some Unicorns suddenly appear in your stable. Kind of like Mahomes a few years back, Joe Burrows of recent fame and about 20 years ago, this guy named Ben Roethlisberger.
And, you don’t find out if you have a Unicorn, or merely a shabby old mule, unless you’re willing to let them out on the field to eat some grass.
People will point to Aaron Rodgers as benefitting from playing behind Brett Favre for a few years before getting his chance to shine. But, Rodgers was a University of California, Berkeley graduate. Do you really think he needed to learn anything from Favre other than how to chew tobacco?
But. Sigh. We’ll go through the motions with Trubisky. We’ll just all wait for Kenny to get his turn.
I’m feeling hot all of the sudden. Does that sun suddenly seem really bright to you?
The Best Job In Football
It must be noted that it wouldn’t have made much of a difference if it was Mitch Trubisky or Mason Rudolph who got the starting nod. They both are competent players and have been kindly and generously supportive of Kenny Pickett in his rookie year.
Yet, either one would have been a starting quarterback with the parking meter ticking loudly with very few quarters in their pockets.
This is going to be Pickett’s team sooner rather than later.
And both Trubisky and Rudolph have the best jobs in football. Being a second or third string quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers is about as good as it gets.
This is why I’m personally getting weary of the “he doesn’t deserve this” posts on Social Media in reference to Mason Rudolph’s ending up as the Show horse in this race.
Even being the third string quarterback on this roster is one of the best career moves you could ever make. It’s the most overpaid position in the National Football League.
During the games, these deep backup quarterbacks must have the appearance that they are listening in on the play calls as they work away furiously with the clipboard. But, let’s be honest. Mason could be on the sidelines listening through his headphones to the Alien Conspiracist Podcast, scribbling drawings of Martians and no one would know.
In fact, no would even probably care. Perhaps Special Teams Coach Danny Bell might even swing by and ask, “Any updates on Area 51”?
With this third string quarterback gig, you get to dress up for the games as if you’re a real player. You get six months off for travel to exotic tropical islands in the offseason. You get paid to work out whenever you want in a state-of-the-art facility, and you even get to play toss with some really famous people.
What’s not to like?
Don’t worry about Mason or even eventually Mitch. They both will enjoy dream jobs.
It’s All On The Line
If you’re Najee Harris, you pretty much only have two options drawn up for you in the Pittsburgh Steelers playbook.
There is “Run Into A Wall Left” and “Run Into A Wall Right”.
The offensive line blocking was so poor last year that it’s somewhat of a miracle Najee’s pure talent as a runner still was so clearly evident. The most thrilling proposition of last year’s experience is the dreamy vision of all he could offer if the man was provided actual, real-life running holes.
It could be literally game changing for the Steelers this season. And it kind of needs to be.
As much as we would hope it to be the case, the Steelers don’t have the type of dominant defense that can win Super Bowl trophies while leaving their offense in the minivan with the air conditioning running.
This year’s defense has a reasonable chance to be excellent and will surely produce some special plays throughout the year.
But the Steelers are going to need their offense to be at least above the line of competence. The only way this happens is if the offensive line somehow rediscovers the rarely experienced phenomenon called “blocking”.
Much of the blame for their unimpressive preseason performance has been pointed at a changing of the guard in coaches and blocking philosophies. The more accurate explanation of their bad poker play is they are about five first round draft picks shy of a full deck.
These coaches are going to have to pull some 350-pound rabbits out of their hats or there won’t be the magical season we’re seeking and somewhat deserve after years of mediocrity.
You want to know what kind of season the Steelers are going to experience throughout this year? You will have your answer by the first half of this first game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Forget about this, “give the offensive line some time to gel” garbage. We fell for that line last year. And as the Who said, “We won’t be fooled again.”
Good season or bad? Just look at the trenches this Sunday. Both offensively and defensively. Are we winning there? Or are we losing?
In professional football, none of the other shiny objects really matter.
Earning Their Stripes
No one ever wants to lose a Super Bowl. You get so close, only to be so far away.
Still, the Cincinnati Bengals were little more than a field goal shy of being Super Bowl Champions last season, and their roster is young, exciting, and absolutely overflowing with talent.
If the Pittsburgh Steelers want to be the Pittsburgh Steelers again, they’ll need to humble the Bengals and that won’t be any easy task.
They’ll get that chance in the first game of the season in the state of Ohio. There was a recent Steelers quarterback who used to be able to own Ohio.
Let’s hope one of the new quarterbacks, whomever it ends up being, is able to continue the tradition for another twenty years.