Headed into the off-season, supporters of all NFL clubs face one question or another. But it has been quite some time since the Pittsburgh Steelers’ fans have been left to ponder the most important question of all, Who will start under center?
Things are a little different heading into the 2023 campaign following the retirement of future Hall of Famer, Ben Roethlisberger. Thrust into the starting spot in Week 2 of his debut season back in 2004, “Big Ben” soon set about compiling one of the greatest quarterback careers in the history of the Black and Gold. Hanging up his cleats having become the all-time franchise leader in both passing yards and touchdowns – and inspiring the Super Bowl successes of 2005 and 2008 – “Big Ben” leaves a pair of mightily big boots to fill.
The 100-day countdown to the beginning of the 2022 season has now begun, and the task of following in the footsteps of greatness will fall to one of three men. A subject of fierce debate amongst fans, the oddsmakers are getting in on the act by releasing lines on who will land the job of starting quarterback in Week 1. Looking to speculate on which of the trio will win the race? Be sure to start by using a legal NFL betting app. These apps listed on Gamble USA are from legal, trusted sportsbooks.
And so, to the candidates:
Taken as the second overall selection by the Bears in the 2017 draft, the Steelers seized upon Trubisky on the first day of free agency. Signing a two-year $14.25million deal – rising to $27million with incentives – many believe that the Ohio native is the man in pole position to be given the first crack at the starters spot.
Trubisky’s four years in Chicago began promisingly enough, with the ex-North Carolina man enjoying a breakout season in 2018 – playing well enough to earn a spot at the Pro Bowl. Things however went south from that point, with Trubisky departing the “Windy City” with an overall record of 29-21, 64% completion rate, and 64 TD’s. Despite bolstering those numbers with 1057 yards and 8 TDs on the ground, Trubisky never consistently hit the heights expected and arrives on the back of a season serving as Josh Allen’s backup in Buffalo.
Despite having questions to answer, the Steelers are willing to take a chance on Trubisky’s undoubted underlying talent. If able to iron out his accuracy issues when going long, Trubisky’s mobility and general excellence in the short game could prove a good fit for Matt Canada’s system.
If not Trubisky, then the man most likely to take the Steelers first snap is first-round draft pick, Kenny Pickett. The first, and only, quarterback selected in the first round of the 2022 draft, the Steelers took Pickett with the 20th overall selection – being shocked that the Pitt Panthers star had not been snapped up earlier. Now in the building, the 24-year-old comes straight into contention for the starting job.
Whether Pickett is deemed ready to make the step up immediately remains to be seen, but he does arrive more experienced than many rookies having remained with the Panthers for an additional year to refine his game. Posting figures of a 67.2% completion rate, 4319 passing yards, and 42TD’s in that final year, his decision certainly paid off. The Steelers have also historically been excellent judges of taking a QB in the first round. All told Pittsburgh has used six first-round picks on QB’s since 1953. Of that sextet, Terry Bradshaw and Len Dawson have already been inducted into the Hall of Fame, with Roethlisberger sure to join them.
Also on Pickett’s side is the fact that it was Steelers Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada who initially recruited him for the Panthers. And whilst the pair never actually worked together, Canada clearly views the young man as a good fit for his scheme.
Upon Roethlisberger’s retirement, existing backup Mason Rudolph seemed set to be handed his chance to take the starting job. He now looks to be third in the pecking order once it’s all said and done.
Now 26, Rudolph does however have the advantage of already knowing the system, having worked with Canada for a year as his quarterback coach, and a year as OC. Should Trubisky, Pickett, or both, have any issues picking up the demands of Canada’s run-heavy, short passing game, Rudolph may yet be the man they call upon.
The Steelers have also shown they can win under Rudolph, with the three-year backup having posted a record of 5-4-1 as a starter, with a 61.5% completion rate, 2366 passing yards, and 16 TD’s. Not spectacular numbers – and there is no doubt Rudolph has looked limited at times in terms of accuracy – but we would at least provide a solid base whilst the new boys are bought up to speed – and may even improve with a system tweaked to match his skill set.
Whether the free-agent acquisition, the rookie, or the existing backup, Heinz Field is certainly going to feel a little different on opening weekend without Roethlisberger under center.
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