Mitch Trubisky’s Steelers debut vs Bengals is an audition for his future

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) warms up before the game against the Detroit Lions at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) warms up before the game against the Detroit Lions at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Mitch Trubisky will be the Steelers starting quarterback to begin the season, but here’s why his performance vs the Bengals will help shape his future.

Typically, when a quarterback is entering his sixth NFL season, he’s already considered to be a franchise quarterback or a long-term backup. At the moment, Mitch Trubisky doesn’t fit into either category. The Pittsburgh Steelers signed Trubisky this past offseason with the intention of him being their starter. However, after taking Kenny Pickett with the 20th overall pick, the Steelers will flip over the hourglass starting in his first game against the Bengals.

We all know that Pickett is going to be ‘the guy’ at some point for the Steelers. We just don’t know when that will be. If Trubisky was a glass-half-empty type of person, he might be looking at this as a lose-lose situation. However, he will have a chance to shape his future starting with a strong game in Week 1.

Last year against the Bengals, Ben Roethlisberger was forced to pass the ball a combined 99 times in two games — throwing four interceptions in the process. Theoretically, there’s nowhere to go but up from here. However, this is a tall task for Trubisky in his first regular-season game in a Steelers uniform.

In 2021, the Bengals were just a few plays away from winning the Super Bowl. They will a tough team to keep pace with offensively thanks to their high-powered passing attack, and their defense was one of the better units in the league last season — particularly their front seven.

Fortunately, Trubisky performed well during the preseason despite playing behind an offensive line that really struggled all around. Still, the veteran QB flashed his ability to escape the pocket, throw on the run, and make plays with his legs. These are tools he may have to use often in Week 1.

What Trubisky must do for Steelers in Week 1

A loss against the Bengals isn’t going to spell the end for Mitch Trubisky, but a good game would be a step in the right direction in increasing his value. Ultimately, we know that Trubisky is in a temporary role as the Steelers starting quarterback, and he’s essentially auditioning to be another team’s starting QB when this gig is over.

If he comes out of the gate firing (much like he did in the preseason), that will catch the attention of some QB-needy teams out there. So what does a good game from Trubisky look like in Week 1?

For starters, Mitch needs to show that he can take care of the football and make good decisions. This hasn’t been a major issue, but avoiding careless passes and turnover-worthy plays will be key. He also needs to show that he can be more than just a serviceable system quarterback. Checking the ball down too often (a la Mason Rudolph) will be a red flag to teams looking at him as their next potential quarterback.

If Trubisky can finish the game throwing for over 225 passing yards and average at least 7.5 yards per attempt without turning the ball over, this will be a big step in the right direction.

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It’s inevitable; at some point, the team will turn to Kenny Pickett. Mitch Trubisky has a cap hit of $10 million next season, so it doesn’t seem likely he will be on the roster past this season. In his debut, Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback begins his audition to be a starting quarterback for some team in 2023 and beyond.