Trubisky Time? Steelers Sign Mitch Trubisky, Giving Another 1st Round Quarterback a 2nd Chance

Although they can’t make it official until Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Steelers will sign Mitchell Trubisky to a two year contract. Trubisky joins a quarterback room with Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins and will challenge Mason Rudolph for the starting quarterback position this summer at St. Vincents.

The Chicago Bears made Mitch Trubisky the 2nd overall pick during the 2017 NFL Draft. Trubisky started 50 games for the Bears and appeared in 51. Mitchell Trubisky’s record as a starter is 29-21 in the regular season and 0-2 in the playoff losses to the Eagles (2018) and the Saints (2020.)

According to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, Mitch Trubisky’s 2 year contract with the Steelers is valued at 14 million dollars but can climb to 27 million based on incentives.

Mitch Trubisky

The Steelers have signed Mitch Trubisky to a 2 year deal. Photo Credit: AAdrian Kraus, AP, via NJ.com

Trubisky Time! …We’ll See

With a contract that averages nearly 7 million a year, Mitchell Trubisky is making almost twice as much as Mason Rudolph. While that doesn’t assure him a starting job, it clearly indicates where the Steelers are leaning.

  • The question is, this the right decision?

Looking at the numbers, Mitch Trubisky has authored a respectable career, albeit, one that fails to live up to his draft status.

Overall, Trubisky boasts a career completion rate of 64.1% which is a hair below Ben Roethlisberger’s 64.4%. He’s also got a 64 touchdown passes to 37 interceptions, giving him a pick rate of 2.4% which is a hair below Roethlisberger’s 2.5% His career passer rating is 87, which is a full 5 points below Big Ben’s.

And numbers can be deceiving – Walter Abercrombie has a higher yards-per-carry average than Jerome Bettis – Anyone prefer him to The Bus? Last year, the Bears opted not to pick up his fifth year option, and  Trubisky couldn’t get a wiff of a starting job, instead spent 2021 backing up Josh Allen for the Buffalo Bills.

Mitchell Trubisky does offer the Steelers mobility, and in that sense is a better fit for Matt Canada’s offense.

Trubisky, the Latest First Round Pick to Get a 2nd Chance in Pittsburgh

Mitch Trubisky’s arrival all but rules out the Steelers using a first round pick on Kenny Pickett, Matt Corral, Malik Willis or any of the other QB prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft.

If the Steelers don’t often draft a quarterback in the first round, having only done it 3 times since the Nixon Administration, they’ve given several former first rounder’s a 2nd chance, with mixed results.

Dwayne Haskins is one of those, and he’s still writing his story. Paxton Lynch was another, but he wrote footnote instead of a story.

Fresh off of XFL glory, Steelers took a flyer Tommy Maddox in 2001. He was only ever supposed to be a backup, but Tommy Gun unseating team MVP Kordell Stewart was the story of the Steelers 2002 season.

Bubby Brister

Bubby Brister cerca 1988. Photo Credit: Brian Smale, SI Vault.com

Back in 1988, the Steelers traded for Todd Blackledge whom Kansas City had taken 20 slots ahead of Dan Marino the 1983 NFL Draft.

Unlike Maddox, the Steelers brought in Blackledge to compete with Bubby Brister. Yet, Bubby started training camp proclaiming, “I’m your man!” Brister not only claimed the starting job, but when he got injured that year, Steve Bono pushed Todd Blackledge playing time, and by mid-1989, Rick Strom had relegated Blacklege to the 3rd string.

  • So what’s the moral of these men’s stories?

Mitch Trubisky would be wise to take nothing for granted.

Follow Steelers free agency. Visit our Steelers 2022 Free Agent tracker or click here for all Steelers 2022 free agent focus articles.

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Uncanny Coincidences and Anthony Wright, the Steelers Forgotten 4th String Quarterback

Sometimes coincidences conspire to become a little too uncanny for comfort. Such is the case with Anthony Wright, the Steelers forgotten 4th string quarterback.

Jim Wexell closed June with an in-depth profile of the Steelers training camp “arm”/4th string quarterback Delvin Hodges. Hodges’ hope of securing a spot with the Steelers rides on an injury to Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph or Joshua Dobbs.

Anthony Wright, Steelers

Anthony Wright the Steelers forgotten 4th String Quarterback. Photo Credit: Peter Diana, Post-Gazette

But Wexell’s profile of the rookie was so thorough that it prompted one reader (ok, it was me) to recall a similar profile written, possibly penned by Wexell, back in 1999 on a similar long shot rookie 4th string quarterback, namely Anthony Wright.

Given that stars rarely align with such eerie precision, it only seems fitting that take a brief look at Anthony Wright’s stint with the Steelers.

Anthony Wright Really IS the Steelers Forgotten 4th String Quarterback

In reporting Anthony Wright’s shooting, ESPN and Sports Illustrated recalled his time with the Cowboys, Bengals, Giants and Ravens, but omitted his service to the Steelers. Perhaps that’s understandable. After all, Pro Football Reference doesn’t list Anthony Wright as having played for the Steelers.

Fair enough. But but Bob Labriola also overlooked Anthony Wright’s time in the Black and Gold last summer while recalling the 1995 season when Bill Cowher kept Neil O’Donnell, Mike Tomczak, Jim Miller and Kordell Stewart on his active roster.

  • When the editor of the Steelers Digest and team website make an omission like that, you’re officially forgotten.

And the truth is, Anthony Wright’s time in Pittsburgh merits little more than a footnote in the History of Steelers Backup Quarterbacks should someone like Jim O’Brien ever decide to pen such a volume.

If memory serves, Anthony Wright was a find of Dan Rooney Jr., and acquitted himself well in the Steelers-Redskins scrimmage in early August 1999, at Frostsburg University.

That performance earned Wright preseason playing time where he showed off the arm strength that allowed him to launch 50 missiles which convinced the Steelers to keep him. But, as recalled during last year’s profile of the two times the Steelers kept four quarterbacks, the decision to keep Wright in ’99 was a sign of the depth chart’s weakness, unlike 1995.

The Steelers dressed Anthony Wright a few times at the end of the 1999 season, and word was they even planned to play him in the season finale against the Titans, but that never came to fruition.

Anthony Wright, Larry Foote, Steelers vs Ravens

Larry Foote hones in on Anthony Wright in 2005. Photo Credit: Ravens.com

The next summer Tee Martin beat him out for the 3rd string quarterback job, and Wright went on to play for Cowboys, Ravens, Bengals and Giants. Along the way he appeared in 31 games and started 19 of those, amassing an 8-11 record as a starter, going 1-1 vs. the Steelers.

  • While far from qualifying him as another Kurt Warner, it is a respectable career for a quarterback whose foot in the NFL door was as a training camp arm.

But in some ways, Anthony Wright’s footnote in History of Steelers Backup Quarterbacks is more notable than say that of Steve Bono. To be certain, Bono actually played in multiple games for the Steelers unlike Wright.

But Anthony Wright’s presence in Pittsburgh for one season provides and example of Bill Cowher’s desire to staff a true up and comer in the 3rd string quarterback slot. Whether it was Jim Miller, Mike Quinn, or Pete Gonzalez, The Chin spent the 1990’s trying to find someone behind his established veteran backup who offered legitimate “upside.”

The fact that Cowher would cut Anthony Wright in favor of Tee Martin doesn’t speak well of his talent evaluation skills, but that is another story….

Steel Curtain Rising wishes Anthony Wright a speedy and thorough recovery.

 

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Steve Bono’s Steelers Career: From Striker Replacement Stud to Proverbial “What If?”

You’ll have to forgive me, but the only memory I have of former quarterback Steve Bono’s Steelers career is from my aunt through marriage.

We were watching some game in 1988 (since the Steelers finished 5-11 that year, it was no doubt a loss), and Steve Bono was standing next to starting quarterback Bubby Brister, when my aunt said, “Those guys are good looking.”

Steve Bono, Steelers 1987 striker replacement quarterback

Steve Bono wore 15 as the Steelers striker replacement quarterback. Later he wore 13. Photo Credit: Sporster.com via Spokeo

That’s it, that’s the only memory I have of the one-time scab, who once went 2-1 for the Steelers during the 1987 NFL players strike, before eventually departing for the 49ers and a few other NFL organizations during his 14-year NFL career that included stints with seven different organizations.

  • But since this is a Steelers site, you probably want to know about Bono’s time in Pittsburgh.

It was brief.

Bono was a sixth round pick of the Vikings in the 1985 NFL Draft, but did little of not in Minnesota before arriving in Pittsburgh as a free-agent signing in 1987.

  • However, with the veteran Mark Malone entrenched as the starter and

Bubby Brister, the team’s third round pick in the 1986 NFL Draft, as Mark Malone’s backup and starter-in-waiting, there wasn’t much for Steve Bono to be for the Steelers other than their third-string quarterback, which he was during the first two games of the 1987 campaign.

  • However, the NFLPA elected to go on strike after two games, just like the union had done five years earlier.

But, unlike  the 1982 strike that resulted in a loss of nine regular season games, NFL owners decided to use replacement players to offset the ’87 work stoppage.

While Steve Bono wasn’t exactly “scab,” having been around for two years without a real career break, he crossed the picket line and wound up starting all three games for the the Steelers strike replacement quarterback during the duration of the ’87 strike.

  • Pittsburgh went 2-1 during the three-week replacement player era, and Steve Bono completed 34-74 passes for 438 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions.

Decent enough numbers, considering most of his replacement teammates were guys who were and would be (say it with me) bagging groceries once the strike ended, which it did after those three games. (OK, Hall of Famer’s John Stallworth and Mike Webster crossed the picket line too.)

Bono didn’t appear in any other games after the regulars returned in ’87 and only made two appearances for that infamous 5-11 ’88 squad, completing 10 of 35 passes for 110 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions as Todd Blackledge ultimately edged him out at backup quarterback.

Rick Strom,

Rick Strom during the Steelers 1992 season. Photo Credit: FinalShot

Perhaps mercifully (for him, not Pittsburgh), Steve Bono was allowed to walk after the ’88 season as the Steelers opted to hand their third string quarterbacking clipboard to Rick Strom. Bono did well for himself, as he signed a deal with the 49ers to be their third-string quarterback behind Joe Montana and Steve Young.

  • History tells us that was a thankless and impossible task if one wanted playing time.

But, in addition to earning two Super Bowl rings as an apprentice in both 1988 and 1989, Bono found his way into the starting lineup in 1991, thanks to back issues for Montana and multiple injuries suffered by Young.

  • Steve Bono started six games in ’91 for the 49ers, and won five games, while completing 141 of 237 passes for 11 touchdowns and four interceptions.

In his book, My Life Behind the Spiral, Young, a future Hall of Famer, talks about the frustrations of dealing with injuries, as he watched Bono lead an admittedly talented 49ers team to many victories in his absence. The fact that some of the more 49er fans claimed that Bono should be starting over Young undoubtedly contributed to his frustration.

Steve Young ultimately reclaimed his starting job, and Steve Bono resumed his role as backup QB and remained in San Francisco through the 1993 season before signing with the Chiefs for the 1994 campaign.

In Kansas City, Bono started 31 games in three seasons (Montana was with KC by then and was the Chiefs starter through ’94) and won 21 of them–including 13 in 1995–while passing for 6,489 yards, 37 touchdowns and 27 interceptions.

Neil O'Donnell, Kordell Stewart, Steelers quarterbacks 1990's

Neil O’Donnell and Kordell Stewart

Unfortunately for Bono, he could never quite get his Chiefs over the hump and played out his career as a journeyman backup for the Packers, Rams and Panthers, before leaving the game following the 1999 season.

  • True, Bono was never anything special, but could he have bested the likes of Brister and, ultimately, Neil O’Donnell and Kordell Stewart in Pittsburgh?

It’s hard to say.

After all, Steve Bono had the benefit of playing behind legends the caliber of Montana and Young while with the 49ers and absorbing their wisdom. And what about his coaches in San Francisco? In head coach Bill Walsh and quarterbacks coach and then offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren, well, can you think of two better offensive minds?

It’s easy to say Bono may have beaten out passers such as Brister and O’Donnell in Pittsburgh, but the fact is, the Steelers didn’t have anywhere near the level of talent the 49ers had in the late-80’s and early-90’s.

Besides, Bubby Brister was pretty darn talented in his own right, and as for O’Donnell, well, it’s hard to top three division championships, two AFC title games and a Super Bowl appearance.

Perhaps it is safe to conclude that, Steve Bono was probably a safer “game manager” than either the Bubster or Slash, but he also lacked Brister’s rifle arm and Kordell’s big play potential. And Bono would have been an upgrade at backup quarterback over Mike Tomczak.

  • At the end of  the day, Steve Bono was just a foot-note in Steelers history.

Could he have been more than that?

Steelers Nation is left to wonder.

 

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Watch Tower: Jason Worilds Predictions, Roethlisberger Extension & More

The Pittsburgh Steelers are two months into their off season and things have been busy and are about to get busier as free agency looms. A lot is going on in Steelers Nation and everyone has an opionon on what should and will happen next. The Watch Tower takes a look.

Predicting Jason Worild’s Future

While the Steelers face a number of big decisions with respect to free agency none figures to have a larger impact on the Steelers 2015 season than the answer to the question posed here, “What in the World to do about Jason Worilds?

Think about it, decisions on fates of Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, Brett Keisel and Ike Taylor will generate headlines and be HUGE stories in Steelers Nation.

But the choices made by Jason Worilds and the Steelers will have far deeper repercussions on 2015 and beyond. What makes it interesting, is that there is ZERO consensus on what will happen.

Dale Lolley opened February by laying 50-50 odds that Worilds would remain. As February ended, he seemed lean more towards Worilds staying offering:

I think he wants to return to Pittsburgh and they want him to return. And I believe even if he does become a free agent in a couple of weeks, there’s still a good shot he’ll return to Pittsburgh.

Neal Coolong of Behind the Steel Curtain, offered this about Worilds in the context of the Steelers recent contract restructurings “While we still think a deal with Jason Worilds will get done, even if the outside linebacker will be left to explore free agency, the Steelers still have other moves to make.”

Unlike most other bloggers, Coolong has sources on the South Side, although his article doesn’t indicate whether any of these sources influenced Coolong’s conclusion.

  • Not that those who have access to sources agree.

ESPN’s Scott Brown reported that a “league source” (“league source” usually translates to “player’s agent”) informed him that the Steelers will allow Worilds to become a free agent. This is hardly a surprise, but the fact that someone who is likely an agent is pushing this line with reporters suggests that the Worilds is intent on aggressively auctioning his services.

  • While Brown offers no specific predictions as to where Worilds will land, the tone of his article suggests it won’t be in Pittsburgh.

Later, in his Steelers Mail column, Brown went a step with reference to free agent signings “It has to be an outside linebacker since Jason Worilds has almost certainly played his last down for the Steelers and the uncertainty at the position in general.”

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette treated his readers to some additional perspective on the Steelers situation with Worilds. He cited an interview with Worilds from December 2013 where Worilds clearly vented his frustrations over having to wait behind James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley while Jarvis Jones got fast tracked on to the field.

Bouchette closed his article with an interesting conclusion:

If a player feels mistreated by an organization at any point during his career it’s hard for that damage to be repaired. Sure, a $10 million contract helps ease the pain, but I knew then Worilds wanted to see what he was worth on the open market.

That’s the kind of perspective you’d expect to get from a man who has covered the Steelers since the days when blast furnaces stood where the Steelers headquarters now sits. (And unlike Alan Robinson, Bouchette linked to his original article.)

No matter how it unfolds, the Worilds situation promises to be interesting. The Steelers want him back, but at their price.

About that Roethlisberger Resigning…

The other big story, one which is drawing surprisingly little reporting, is Ben Roethlisberger’s contract extension. It’s not news that Ben wants to stay in Pittsburgh (Ian Rapport not withstanding) and that the Steelers want him back. The only variables are when the deal is done, for how long and for how much.

It was surprising then when Kevin Gorman of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review lashed out at Kevin Colbert because he “essentially gave away the negotiations before they began.” Gorman take issue with Colbert’s statement at the NFL Scouting Combine that “’Ben is going to be a better quarterback down the road than he is at this point’” as well as saying last spring that he could not foresee Roethlisberger finishing his career outside of Pittsburgh.

Colbert comparisons of Roethlisberger to Peyton Manning and Tom Brady also roused Gorman’s ire.

The sin behind all of this for Gorman? Let’s let his own words talk for him:

Imagine being Roethlisberger’s agent, Ryan Tollner, at the negotiating table.

Gentlemen, now that you have publicly established that Ben is a franchise quarterback whose best is yet to come, that you can’t imagine him not finishing his career in Pittsburgh and that he compares favorably with a pair of all-time greats, let’s talk money! [Emphasis in the original.]

Between these statements and the Steelers decision not to sign Roethlisberger after twin 8-8 campaigns the Steelers have no choice but to pay Roethlisberger top dollar.

The purpose of the Watch Tower is not to dispute dissenting opinions of Pittsburgh’s journalists, but rather to understand how the press that covers the Steelers works.

In that vein, Gorman’s motive boils down to one of two possibilities: 1. Gorman’s trying to generate page views by taking a controversial line or 2. Gorman really thinks it would be wise for the Steelers to attempt to nickel and dime Roethlisberger.

  • Possibility number 1 is understandable, even if it isn’t entirely excusable
  • Possibility number 2 is simply inane

Seriously. Terry Bradshaw threw his last pass for the Steelers at Shea Stadium vs. the Jets in December 1983. Ben Roethlisberger threw his first pass for the Steelers in Baltimore in September 2004.

In between Cliff Stoudt, Mark Malone, Scott Campbell, Steve Bono, Bubby Brister, Todd Blackledge, Neil O’Donnell, Mike Tomczak, Jim Miller, Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddox all got their 15 minutes of fame.

Ben Roethlisberger is one of 3 active quarterbacks with multiple Super Bowl rings. If anything, he’s underrated outside of Pittsburgh. If Gorman wants to stoke some flames by suggesting the Steelers play hard ball, so be it.

But if he should be ashamed of himself if he seriously suggests that Pittsburgh should be petty with the one player who gives them their single best shot at Lombardi number 7.

Wexell Responds on LeBeau’s Departure

The last edition of the Watch Tower focused on deconstructing the press coverage of Dick LeBeau’s departure. After reviewing reporting from several journalists in Pittsburgh, the Watch Tower closed its review by suggesting that Dale Lolley had perhaps gotten closest to the truth.

Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider, who has offered praise of the Watch Tower in the past, responded to a Tweet promoting the article, and in doing so brought new facts to light on the story:

This is of course entirely consistent with Wexell’s reporting on the story both on his site and via Twitter. Nonetheless, it is surprising Wexell would reveal such a vivid inside story on Twitter.

Wexell of course could not, would not, and should not reveal his source, but clearly he’s gotten this from someone very close to the story, if not directly from LeBeau himself (or perhaps even Mike Tomlin.)

While Wexell’s tweet doesn’t necessarily negate Lolley’s interpretation of events, it does throw a lot of cold water on the NFL Network’s attempt to spin the story that LeBeau’s “resignation” “surprised the Steelers.”

The Watch Tower thanks Mr. Wexell for such an insightful response – who said Twitter’s 140 characters limited real communication?

Ryan Clark’s Retirement Unearths Interesting Factoid

Social Media has certainly eliminated many of the traditional barriers that have traditionally governed coverage of NFL teams. But there’s still a lot that goes on that remains out of sight to the average fan.

In referring to Ryan Clark’s hotheaded streak, Brown recalled the time in 2009 that Ryan Clark call the media “turds” and revealed “Two seasons later, a Steelers media relations staffer had to separate Clark and another reporter after they nearly came to blows at training camp.”

The Watch Tower has no memory of “turds” remark, but a Google search confirms that the comment was picked up by mainstream media outlets at the time he made it. But the news about Ryan Clark almost fighting Joe Bendel got far less coverage.

In fact, the only professional sites which show up in Google searches for “Ryan Clark Joe Bendel Training camp” is Mike Florio’s Pro Football Talk and his article references an account of the altercation published by Brown while still at the Tribune Review.

The fact that a story like this had such short legs is surprising, and likely speaks to the prowess power of the Steelers PR staff in keeping something like this from gaining momentum in the media.

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