What Are The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Options With QB Mitch Trubisky?

Talk about what may or may not happen with Pittsburgh Steelers backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky before March 15 is starting to heat up this week and even on the heels of team president Art Rooney II recently indicating that the veteran is poised to remain with the team for the final year of his contract, which is scheduled to earn him at least $8 million. So, why is the talk about Trubisky’s future in Pittsburgh heating up this week? Well, you can attribute some of the reason to a Tuesday story from Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. With that, let’s dive deeper into some things that Dulac wrote.

Let’s focus on Dulac’s idea of trimming Trubisky’s 2023 salary cap charge, which right now is scheduled to be $10.625 million.

“The Steelers cannot simply restructure Trubisky’s contract to lessen his cap hit because he is in the final year of his two-year deal,” Dulac wrote on Tuesday. “They would have to sign him to a new contract and add voidable years if they wanted to convert his salary into a signing bonus. They could also ask him to take a pay cut. But all that would require Trubisky agreeing to such a deal, and the chances of that are probably not very good.”

As for the restructure part related to Trubisky’s contract, four voidable years would need to be added to take advantage of the max salary cap savings. Doing that would require all but $1.08 million of the $8 million base salary that Trubisky is set to earn in 2023 being turned into a signing bonus. The max salary cap savings for 2023 produced by such a restructure with four voidable years added on would be $5.536 million. Such a restructure would also produce $5.536 million in 2024 dead money after Trubisky’s contract voided.

Now, would the Steelers even want to go back down the voidable year restructure path again? Former Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert had indicated that was a one-year thing due to the COVID year and the decrease in the NFL’s annual salary cap number. Does new Steelers general manager Omar Khan share that same philosophy? We’ll see.

“It was an unusual year with the low cap because of the pandemic and the reduced revenue,” Colbert said last March. “We had to be open to new ideas. Will we use those types of ideas going forward? I think that’s doubtful.”

Now, would Trubisky merely want to do the Steelers a solid by doing such a simple restructure, assuming one was even offered to him, to ensure he earns at least $8 million in 2023? Probably not and especially based on end-of-season comments he reportedly made. If, however, he did decide to restructure, he might very well ask for the percentage in the terms of his play-time incentives in his deal, which are reportedly 60 percent for an extra $4 million, be lowered.

That play-time incentive restructure possibility noted, the lowest that percentage could be to remain being termed NLTBE (not-likely-to-be-earned), would be around 31 percent, because Trubisky played roughly 30.6 percent of all offensive snaps in 2022. That could be a huge obstacle as Trubisky would then need to play roughly 310 offensive snaps in 2023 to receive an additional $4 million. Unless starting quarterback Kenny Pickett were to be lost for nearly a third of the 2023 season due to injury, there’s no way Trubisky would hit that play-time percentage. See the issue there?

So, what about a straight pay cut for Trubisky like Dulac penned? Well, if Trubisky is as miffed about his current situation with the Steelers as most of us believe might be the case, why the hell would he agree to cut his $8 million base salary? Additionally, such a pay cut would probably need to be at least $3 million. Could Trubisky find another team willing to pay him $5 million for 2023, in addition to giving him a chance to at least compete for a starting job? That’s quite plausible, I suppose. Additionally, if Trubisky did agree to take a pay cut, he would also probably demand the terms of his play-time incentives also change. Why wouldn’t he?

While Dulac doesn’t mention it as being an option, might the Steelers be able to trade away Trubisky to another team this offseason? It’s a good question. An even better question might be related to whether another team would be willing to take on the full $8 million that Trubisky is owed for 2023. Might the Steelers need to eat as much as $4 million of Trubisky’s 2023 salary as part of trading him away? It’s possible. Going that route would at least save the Steelers some 2023 salary cap space, depending on how much of the $8 million they would need to eat as part of a trade.

So, where does all of this leave us when it comes to Trubisky in the coming weeks and months? Quite honesty, it seems like it really comes down to one thing and that’s if the Steelers want Trubisky to be their backup quarterback in 2023 at $8 million. Outside of that, it would take Trubisky making some contractual concessions, something he’s not obligated to do. For all we know, Trubisky might really want the Steelers to cut or trade him at this point. Either that, or accept being a backup up in Pittsburgh at $8 million with the very slight chance of earning $4 million or more in invectives related to playing time and team performance.

In the end, this all goes back to what Rooney said in a January 26 interview when asked about Trubisky’s future.

“It’s still early in the offseason but I expect Mitch will be on the roster next season,” Rooney told Bob Pompeani of KDKA-TV. “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.”

For now, or until March 15 rolls around at least, one must think that Trubisky will remain under contract at $8 million for the 2023 season. Past March 15, and assuming Trubisky is still on the roster at $8 million, I guess the wait will then shift to whether the team could or would trade him. Cutting Trubisky outright, which is obviously an option this offseason, would save the Steelers $8 million in 2023 salary cap space prior to his roster displacement taking place.

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