The Steelers had a wild opening week to start their season, but questions about their new starting QB remain. Here is how Mitch Trubisky fared in his first start.
The Steelers victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday was one of the wildest games NFL fans may see all year, and yet it had some very familiar issues that fans have seen the last few years. The Steeler’s offense struggled mightily with just 267 total yards, and they averaged fewer yards per play (4.4) than the Bengals (4.6) despite the elite play of their defense.
It was expected that Pittsburgh would need to lean on their defense this season, but it’s asking way too much to expect many performances like this one. The running game was non-existent outside of a few jet sweeps, so the responsibility fell on Mitchell Trubisky to make the offense go. Unfortunately, he mostly failed to do so.
Steelers Trubisky fails to sustain drives in debut
The bar for Mitchell Trubisky wasn’t set particularly high by the now-retired Ben Roethlisberger, but he still struggled to clear it in his debut. He completed 21 of 38 passes for 198 yards and one score, via ESPN. Pedestrian numbers in the modern NFL, but more importantly it doesn’t even compare favorably to what they got from Ben last season. His 5.1 yards per attempt would have been the 3rd-worst of any game from Roethlisberger last season. That isn’t going to get it done very often.
The numbers look bad enough, but some of his decisions were also concerning. He was indecisive on a few scrambles that may have moved the chains, and on one in particular he nearly fumbled after not feeling a closing defender. He did a good job of not putting the ball in harm’s way, but it was largely due to conservative play calling. There were very few deep shots and the ones they took were easily defended. If Trubisky can’t push the ball downfield effectively, the offense will continue to sputter.
What the new Steelers QB can do to improve
Trubisky may have struggled overall, but he displayed some nice flashes that helped the Steelers come away with the victory. He completed a tough pass to Pat Freiermuth both on a trick play early and in OT to set up Chris Boswell’s game-winning field goal. He also put the ball right where it needed to be on a spectacular catch by Diontae Johnson in OT. When he is comfortable and on time, he can really throw a good ball.
The biggest hurdle he still has is his ability to go through his reads. It was pretty clear that OC Matt Canada was trying to keep things simple by running some quick passes and misdirection plays. That helped create some of their bigger plays, but it limited the impact of Johnson and rookie George Pickens. Pickens was barely even looked at by Trubisky despite having a dominant training camp. That must change if the passing game wants to take a step forward.
The bottom line is that Trubisky failed to improve upon what the Steelers offense looked like last season. It was enough to get the victory but if he doesn’t show a lot more in the next few weeks, he may be watching someone else do his job.