If Mitch Trubisky can read a defense as well as he can read a room, then maybe the Pittsburgh Steelers really do have a diamond in the rough.
Speaking with reporters Tuesday for the first time (in person, anyway) after the first OTA practice, Trubisky appropriately addressed, deftly sidestepped or politely downplayed just about any question that could’ve been kindling for the quarterback controversy bonfire that is sure to come once training camp and the preseason begins.
Trubisky or rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett as the starter? Trubisky or Mason Rudolph? Rudolph to be a backup or to be traded in favor of keeping rookie Chris Oladokun? Pickett to start on Day 1, or to not even dress on game days for a while?
If there is some smoldering tension from Trubisky regarding the amount of competition he’ll be facing after signing a free-agent contract to presumably become the starting quarterback, he is not showing it.
“It’s good,” Trubisky said of the dynamics in the quarterback room. “We’ve got two young guys and two vets. There’s a lot of ongoing conversations. We are all learning the offense for the first time together. So we are pushing each other. Competing. It’s been a good quarterback room so far. I’m enjoying it.”
Via Zoom shortly after his signing in March, Trubisky similarly embraced a competition with Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins as roster incumbents who were also vying to fill the void under center created when Ben Roethlisberger retired.
In the months since then, Haskins was killed while walking on a highway to get gas for his disabled car. Then the Steelers drafted Pickett and Oladokun.
The Steelers apparently had every intention of bringing four roster-viable quarterbacks to camp before or after Haskins’ death, even after Trubisky’s decision to sign here in March. That spotlight got all the brighter when Pickett was taken No. 20 overall out of Pitt.
Trubisky says he has no reason to feel as if he is playing in a different situation than he expected when he inked his contract.
“I really wasn’t surprised,” Trubisky said of the team’s decision to draft Pickett. “We needed to add to the quarterback room, and that’s what we did. We’re happy to have him, and we’re looking forward to working with him.”
For his part, Trubisky says he and the Steelers never had any discussions about the prospect of the organization drafting a first-round quarterback.
“We didn’t have those conversations, but I knew it was a possibility (for a rookie QB) to come in wherever I would go next,” Trubisky said.
I find it hard to believe such a topic was never broached, at least between Trubisky’s agents at Rep 1 Sports and the Steelers. Especially given how incentive-laden the second year of Trubisky’s contract is, wouldn’t they have hoped Trubisky would only have to battle Rudolph and (at the time) Haskins for the starting spot, as opposed to a potential future franchise signal caller?
I mean, nothing had to be etched in stone or even a handshake under the table. A team is going to do what it wants to do if the draft board shakes out in surprising fashion, as it did for the Steelers. But the concept of it never being discussed sounds fishy, given Trubisky was said to be coveted by other teams (like the New York Giants).
Regardless, if Trubisky’s nose is out of joint about the Steelers deciding to take Pickett, he is not showing it to the media.
“I knew coming into this situation, wherever I was going to go, I was going to have to come in and compete; earn the trust of my teammates back on the field with hard work and my talent, and just (be) a leader on this team,” Trubisky said.
It appears Trubisky already graciously maneuvered one potential moment of awkwardness. Known for being community-minded during his days in Chicago, Trubisky quickly tried to get ingrained in Pittsburgh, volunteering to appear at the Kids Marathon. Which was April 30. Less than two days after the Steelers drafted Pickett — the local hero quarterback from Pitt — to possibly be in position to take the starting job before Trubisky ever got a practice rep.
But Trubisky did the event and gushed about it Tuesday, even though he knows some people may have looked at him as simply the guy who is not Ben Roethlisberger … or the guy who is just keeping the seat warm for Pickett.
“What I’ve learned about Pittsburgh is that it’s a huge sports town. They are very welcoming and warm people,” Trubisky said. “Hopefully they’ll just get to know me as Mitch Trubisky. And we’ll take it one day at a time. Hopefully as this thing goes, they’ll get to know me and my family and what I’m all about … in the community and the part that’s on the field as well.”
According to linemen Mason Cole and Kevin Dotson, Trubisky opened the initial practice as the first-team quarterback Tuesday. So maybe that made his diplomacy all the more easy to sell. We’ll see if that’s still the case by the time training camp practices and the preseason begin.
At least off the field, Trubisky has started his Steelers career by making all the right decisions about what to say. For Steelers fans, hopefully his decision making is as good when he is delivering the ball.
Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.
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