Entering the offseason ahead of the 2023 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have some decisions to make on the roster overall, at least from a salary cap standpoint.
Names like cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon and William Jackson III will dominate the discussion regarding cap subtractions to free up space, as well as restructures for guys like T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick, but the one big decision the Steelers have this offseason revolved around the backup quarterback position and one Mitch Trubisky, according to the Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac.
Trubisky is set to count $10.625 million against the cap with $8 million as a base salary, a significant increase from his $1.035 million base salary last season and $3.660 million cap hit after signing with the Steelers in free agency. Back then, Trubisky was viewed as the starter in Pittsburgh and was relatively affordable overall.
Now though, after losing his starting job to Kenny Pickett at halftime of the Week 4 loss to the New York Jets, Trubisky is a high-priced backup, which has the Steelers at a crossroads, according to Dulac.
“The Steelers have to decide if they want to pay a backup quarterback $8 million in salary (not counting incentives) and have him count $10.625 million against the salary cap in 2023. That would make Trubisky, 28, among the highest-paid backups in the league, if not the highest,” Dulac writes for the Post-Gazette. “And Trubisky has to decide if he wants to forget the disappointment and discontent of what happened in 2022 and accept what would be the highest single-season payday of his seven-year career.”
On the surface, there is no real decision to be made.
Trubisky is under contract for one more season and is relatively affordable, considering the overall financial picture at the quarterback position in Pittsburgh. With Pickett on a rookie contract and slated to count $3.197 million against the cap in 2023 with a base salary of $870,000, the Steelers currently have just over $13 million tied up in the most important position in the sport today.
That’s very affordable overall. Add in the fact that Trubisky has starting experience in Pittsburgh, knows the system and the playmakers, and worked very well overall with Pickett last season after being demoted, there’s no real decision to be made regarding Trubisky’s outlook with the black and gold for 2023.
Of course, Trubisky could ask for his release or a trade, which would throw a wrench into things, but he should be content to receive $8 million this season to hold a clipboard, have an earpiece in, and wear a ball cap on the sidelines in a cushy backup role in the Steel City.
Last season showed Pickett is susceptible to injuries, missing the Week 15 game on the road against Carolina with a concussion after leading the Week 14 home game against Baltimore in the first quarter. He also missed the second half of the Week 6 matchup against Tampa Bay, which Trubisky came in and closed out in impressive fashion.
Having that type of experience behind Pickett is a real fail-safe for the Steelers in 2023.
Team President and owner Art Rooney II recently told KDKA-TV’s Bob Pompeani he expects Trubisky to be a Steeler in 2023, and when he says something publicly like that, chances are it’s written in stone.
“It’s still early in the offseason but I expect Mitch will be on the roster next season,” Rooney told Pompeani. “And be an effective backup when we need him. I think he showed we can win with him. I think he’ll be on the roster next year.”
Of course, the Steelers could decide to cut ties with Trubisky, who previously told ESPN’s Brooke Pryor he wishes he wouldn’t have signed with the Steelers on the first day of free agency. The Steelers want volunteers, not hostages, but they also value experienced, veteran backup quarterbacks.
That’s why there really doesn’t appear to be a decision to be made from the Steelers’ perspective. Pay Trubisky the $8 million base salary in 2023, ride it out with him as a backup with the comfort knowing that if he has to play the Steelers are in capable hands, and then figure out the backup position behind Pickett in 2024 after he has a second season starting in the NFL.
Initially, that seems to be the plan moving forward, especially in light of Rooney’s comments. But if the Steelers decide to cut bait and save nearly $11 million in cap space, they’ll still need to address the position.
One name that continues to be tossed around in Cleveland backup Jacoby Brissett, who will be a free agent after starting 11 games last season for the Browns before heading back to the bench when Deshaun Watson’s suspension was up. Brissett was a name that Steelers Depot’s own Alex Kozora connected to the Steelers last year, based on North Carolina State ties on the offensive coaching staff.
Dulac tossed out Brissett’s name Monday while writing about Trubisky, too.
Brissett would be a good backup plan behind Pickett, should he have interest in joining Pittsburgh if the Steelers were to jettison Trubisky. Right now though, that doesn’t seem like that’s in the cards for the Steelers.