In last week's loss to the Arizona Cardinals, the Steelers suffered a potentially even bigger loss, when Kenny Pickett suffered an ankle injury that required surgery following the game. Losing your starting quarterback is never a good sign, particularly when you are in the thick of the playoff race, as the Steelers are.
After Pickett was injured, Mitch Trubisky entered the game to replace Pickett, and Tomlin subsequently named him the starter for Thursday's game against the New England Patriots. However, even though Trubisky has been the backup all season long, are the Steelers making the correct choice of who to lead their offense?
The Case for Mitch Trubisky
Mitch Trubisky has not been wildly impressive during his time with the Steelers, but he is a veteran in the NFL, who has plenty of experience, much more than Mason Rudolph does. As a former second-overall pick by the Chicago Bears, Trubisky has started a lot of games in the NFL and even has postseason experience.
While he is not a high-end option, he is a prototypical backup quarterback and is a good athlete who can make plays with his legs. His mobility could add another wrinkle to the Steelers' offense and help the team move the ball on the ground. Rudolph is much more of a pocket passer than either Pickett, or Trubisky, so the offense would be a lot more limited in what they could do with him under center.
Combine Trubisky's mobility, and postseason experience, with the fact that he has been the backup all year, and seen game action, and it's easy to make the case for why Trubisky deserves to start.
The Case for Mason Rudolph
While Trubisky has been above Rudolph on the depth chart all year, and it would not be fair to Trubisky to get jumped by Rudolph when he entered the game and the team looked sluggish all around him, that doesn't mean he was rightfully second on the depth chart.
Mason Rudolph has not had much game action over the past few seasons, but he showed a willingness to push the ball downfield in the past when he was starting for the Steelers, taking over for an injured Ben Roethlisberger.
This is something that Trubisky simply doesn't do. Yes, he's strictly a pocket passer, but the Steelers have some matchups where they should be able to put up points down the stretch, and I don't have much confidence that Trubisky will take the necessary shots down the field.
Additionally, Trubisky has shown that he still appears to read a defense like a college quarterback since joining the Steelers. Far too often he has appeared to be a one-read quarterback who looks at his first read, and if he doesn't like it checks it down or runs it himself.
Add to that the fact that he forces the ball into way too crowded windows, and it appears that he oftentimes predetermines where he is going to go with the ball which results in turnovers. Finally, Trubisky doesn't seem to sense pressure very well, as he holds onto the ball too long, taking unnecessary hits that also result in turnovers.
Simply put, Mason Rudolph is the best option for the Steelers at quarterback right now, as he will take his shots down the field, and be a much more decisive passer than Trubisky. While he may not put up jaw-dropping numbers, I believe the offense would move the ball better with him under center, while also committing far fewer turnovers.
While Trubisky will be under center this week, it will be interesting to see how long his leash is if he plays poorly. Would the Steelers consider benching him if he plays poorly, or would they make a change for next week if they lose the game?
This remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, if the Steelers are going to make the Playoffs either Pickett needs to come back soon, or one of these two quarterbacks needs to step up in his absence.