When Mitch Trubisky was benched at halftime in Week 4 against the New York Jets, it seemed to be for an obvious reason. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense wasn’t playing well, putting up just six points against New York, in a game they really needed to win. The second half began the Kenny Pickett era and he provided a spark, making him the starter the following week. But the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac says there’s more to the story. According to Dulac, Trubisky was benched by Mike Tomlin following a halftime confrontation with WR Diontae Johnson. Here’s what Dulac wrote a short time ago:
“Trubisky was benched against the Jets following a locker room confrontation at halftime with receiver Diontae Johnson, multiple sources have told the Post-Gazette. According to sources, Johnson began yelling at Trubisky to throw him the ball more, even though Johnson had a pass skip off his hands that resulted in an interception and failed to get his feet inbounds on what would have been a 23-yard touchdown in the first half. Trubisky stood up to Johnson and a heated exchange occurred. That’s when Pickett was told he would start the second half.”
This is the first report of any sort of argument that led to Trubisky being benched. Per Dulac’s telling, it sounds like Johnson started the confrontation with Trubisky responding. But it was Trubisky who was yanked by Tomlin, not Johnson, who played the rest of the game.
Pickett would come off the bench to lead the Steelers to a pair of touchdowns, though he threw a fourth quarter interception and Pittsburgh’s defense collapsed in the fourth quarter, blowing a ten-point lead to the Jets.
The offense was visibly frustrated during the first month of the season, struggling to move the ball much less put points on the board. The receiver room in particular were vocal with the media, taking not-so-subtle shots at the gameplan, and apparently that carried over inside the locker room. Heated exchanges during games is common in football, but it being tied to Trubisky’s benching is a different level. Perhaps it’s a coincidence, maybe Tomlin had already planned to bench Trubisky or perhaps Tomlin saw the division in the locker room and wanted to try a different quarterback.
Now, Trubisky may be back in the starting lineup. Pickett was concussed in yesterday’s win over Tampa Bay and may not get the clearance or needed practice time to be ready for Week 7’s game against the Miami Dolphins. Trubisky played well off the bench Sunday, completing nine passes for 144 yards and a touchdown, throwing the first TD pass to a wide receiver all season. Pittsburgh will travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins Sunday night.