The Steelers entered Week 3 of the preseason without a decision at QB, but seemingly knew the answer before the game. Here is how each QB played against Detroit.
It’s rare for any team to be unsure of who their starting QB would be entering the final preseason game, but that is precisely the situation the Steelers found themselves in this year. Coach Mike Tomlin confirmed that the decision would be made following the game against the Detroit Lions — implying that the job was still up for grabs. The way things played out seems to tell a different story, however.
Mitchell Trubisky started the game as expected, but he played the entire first half alongside many other starters. His top competitor for the starting job, Kenny Pickett, didn’t appear until the start of the third quarter. Mason Rudolph eventually relieved Pickett, but the fact that Pickett didn’t get at least a few drives with the starters is interesting. Regardless, it looks as though Trubisky will be the one leading the offense Week 1 against the Bengals. His performance against the Lions made it hard not to come to that decision.
Mitch Trubisky takes hold of Steelers starting job
Despite being the projected starter since the moment he signed with the Steelers, Mitch Trubisky had to prove he could bounce back from an up-and-down start to his career. If his performance against Detroit on Sunday is any indication, then he is well on his way to doing so. He finished 15 of 19 for 160 yards and a touchdown against the Lions, including an impressive 2-minute drill to end the half.
Overall, Trubisky completed 24 of 34 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but he managed to play well behind a struggling offensive line and mostly poor running game. That’s what he needed to do to keep his spot at the top of the depth chart, and it seems like he will do just that. He had much tougher competition than anyone thought, however.
Kenny Pickett ends excellent preseason strong
As soon as Pickett was selected with the Steelers 20th overall pick, questions about whether he could push Mitchell Trubisky for the starting job immediately ran wild. Early in camp, it seemed highly unlikely as he was working with the third-team offense. Slowly but surely he worked his way past Mason Rudolph for the number two spot, and his play in the preseason was a big reason why. He finished 29 of 36 for 261 yards and three scores, including 10 of 14 for 90 yards in Sunday’s win over Detroit.
Despite having the best overall stat line of any Steelers QB, he wasn’t given a chance to play significant snaps with the first-team offense. That and a conservative approach when he was out there made it clear that they wanted to see him take what the defense gave him. That was one of the concerns about him coming out of Pittsburgh after he made a living out of making plays out of structure, so seeing him mostly win from the pocket was important. Don’t be surprised if we see him early on if Trubisky struggles.
Mason Rudolph ends preseason with a whimper
Mason Rudolph was already facing an uphill battle to be considered for the Steelers starting QB, but once Pickett began making strides in camp it was all but over for him. He played very well early in camp and in the first two preseason games, going 26 of 36 for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Rudolph’s best outing was against the Jaguar’s third-team defense, however.
Leading up to this week’s game against the Lions, his name started popping up in trade rumors. Considering he is firmly the number three QB for Pittsburgh and the lack of quality backups around the league, it makes sense for the Steelers to shop him. Unfortunately for Rudolph, he ended the preseason going 0 for 3 in limited action in the fourth quarter. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if he draws interest. If not, he will likely be inactive for games as the number three QB this season.