Steelers Planning To Keep Mitch Trubisky As Starter Throughout Season?

The Steelers lost their second straight game Thursday, and their offense has been held under 20 points in each of their three contests. Mike Tomlin remains committed to Mitch Trubisky as his starter, however.

Tomlin said postgame he is “definitively” not planning to make a quarterback change. The 16th-year Steelers HC went further before his team’s Week 3 game. Tomlin’s plan is to stick with Trubisky throughout the season and give Kenny Pickett a true redshirt year, according to Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer (h/t Awful Announcing), who adds Tomlin told him, “This is Trubisky’s team.”

This endorsement says a lot about the Steelers’ Pickett timeline, and while it would still be stunning if the team sat its first-round quarterback throughout the season, Tomlin’s pregame and postgame stances makes it look like a long NFL onramp is indeed being built for this year’s No. 20 overall pick. This plan would qualify as a zag compared to how most teams have handled first-round quarterbacks over the past decade.

Although Jordan Love and Patrick Mahomes (save for a Week 17 cameo five years ago) were able to go through full-on redshirt years, their respective teams had solid-to-excellent (in Aaron Rodgers‘ case) starters. Trubisky checks in well below the Rodgers or Chiefs-years Alex Smith level. The Steelers, however, not entertaining a Pickett promotion during their upcoming mini-bye effectively affirms their view of the local rookie’s progress.

Pickett played well during the preseason, but Trubisky was viewed as the first-stringer throughout the offseason. The Pitt product also was a four-year starter at the ACC school that shares a home stadium with the Steelers, giving Tomlin and Co. a fairly good indication of his readiness. Pickett sitting throughout would still surprise, given that this is his age-24 season and his upside outpaces Trubisky’s at this point in the latter’s career.

Trubisky only spent one season as a full-time college starter — at North Carolina in 2016 — but was among the bevy of first-round picks to take their NFL team’s reins early in his first season. The Bears gave him the call in Week 5 of the 2017 campaign. Excluding the Mahomes-Love-Trey Lance genre of rookie QB and the two first-rounders who did not hold down the job after seeing first-string action as rookies (Johnny Manziel, Paxton Lynch), every first-round QB since 2012 has been given a genuine first-season run as a starter.

Should the Steelers insist on Pickett sitting in 2022, they do have third-stringer Mason Rudolph in place. The team passed on trade interest in its fifth-year reserve arm. With Pickett having leapfrogged Rudolph on the depth chart, it would surprise if the longtime Ben Roethlisberger backup usurped Trubisky anytime soon.

Pickett questions will likely continue for the Steelers, whose offense appears to have a low ceiling as presently constructed. Then again, the franchise prioritizing Pickett’s growth over 2022 success would make sense as a long-term plan. This latest report certainly makes Pittsburgh’s Roethlisberger succession plan more interesting.

Titans To Sign S Andrew Adams Off Steelers’ Practice Squad

A Buccaneers contributor for the past four seasons, Andrew Adams is joining a third team since his Tampa stint ended. After signing with the Giants earlier this year and then landing with the Steelers’ practice squad, Adams is now a Titan.

Tennessee is signing the veteran safety off Pittsburgh’s practice squad, per ProFootballNetwork.com’s Aaron Wilson (on Twitter). Adams, 29, is a six-year veteran who has spent time on the Giants and Bucs’ active rosters. He will be on the Titans’ 53-man roster Wednesday.

Although Adams’ Giants deal did not lead to a spot on their 53-man roster this year, the former UDFA has made 35 career starts. He opened his career by moving into New York’s starting lineup, during the team’s most recent playoff season (2016), and was an 11-game starter for Todd Bowles‘ first Tampa Bay defense three years ago.

The latter bump came after Adams intercepted four passes with the 2018 Bucs. Adams played all 20 Bucs games during their 2020 Super Bowl-winning season, working as a backup behind Jordan Whitehead and Antoine Winfield Jr., and started three games last year for the team. Pro Football Focus graded Adams as a solid safety last season, on 214 defensive snaps. He worked extensively as a Bucs special-teamer as well, seeing time on more than 60% of Tampa Bay’s special teams snaps from 2020-21.

The Titans have two solidified safety starters, in Kevin Byard and Amani Hooker, but the team placed backup A.J. Moore on IR last week. Lonnie Johnson, who has bounced from cornerback to safety over his career, has also been with three teams this year (Texans, Chiefs, Titans). Joshua Kalu, who caught on with the Titans just before camp, is the AFC South team’s other backup safety.

CB Joe Haden Announces Retirement

After a 12-year career spent in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Joe Haden is walking away from the game. The former Pro Bowl cornerback plans to retire, according to agent Drew Rosenhaus (via Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper).

While Haden drew some interest this offseason, he did not sign with a team ahead of training camp. The 33-year-old defender ended his career as a 149-game starter. That ranks as a top-50 total in NFL history at cornerback. Among active corners, only Patrick Peterson has lined up as a first-stringer more often.

The Cardinals, Dolphins, Rams and Raiders showed interest this offseason, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (on Twitter). Haden was said to be weighing offers. If so, none of the teams’ proposals did enough to convince him to play a 13th season, but Fowler adds the longtime starter entered free agency planning to do so.

The first cornerback chosen in the 2010 draft (No. 7 overall), Haden earned Pro Bowl nods with the Browns and Steelers. He spent time anchoring secondaries in Cleveland and, after a late-summer release in 2017, became a key figure on a few Steelers playoff teams. Lasting longer than most as a No. 1 corner, Haden made Pro Bowls with the 2013 and ’14 Browns and received his third invite in 2019 — at age 30 — with the Steelers. The 5-foot-11 defender ended his career with 29 interceptions; a six-INT rookie season did the most to bolster that total.

Haden signed a Browns extension in 2014 and played three seasons on that contract but was one of a few veterans to leave the team during its aggressive rebuild attempt from 2016-17. The Browns attempted to keep the ex-Florida Gator on a reduced salary and made efforts to trade him, but the team’s top corner instead ended up on the open market. Although Haden became connected to several other teams — the Dolphins, Eagles, Saints, Chiefs, Cowboys and 49ers — in free agency, he chose the Steelers after visit that occurred hours after his Browns exit. The short Rust Belt trek produced a three-year, $27MM deal, the first of Haden’s two Steelers agreements.

After the arrivals of Haden and T.J. Watt in 2017, the Steelers made a run at the AFC’s No. 1 seed. Ryan Shazier‘s injury and the controversial Jesse James touchdown overturn re-routed the 13-3 team to the No. 2 seed, and an eventual divisional-round loss, but that season began a lengthy Haden second act. The Steelers extended Haden in 2019 — a two-year, $22MM accord — and he ended up starting 67 games with his second NFL employer. That period produced top-10 total defenses from 2017-20 in Pittsburgh and three playoff berths. Haden angled for a third Steelers deal last year, but the team moved on via younger, cheaper options this offseason.

Haden ended up doing incredibly well for himself financially in the NFL, making more than $121MM in 12 years. He arrived during the last draft to feature monster rookie contracts for first-rounders, before the 2011 CBA changed the rookie salary scale, landing a five-year, $40MM deal in 2010. That figure eclipses what 2022 No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker signed for this offseason. The Browns gave Haden a five-year deal in 2014 (worth $67.5MM) as well.

Steelers Sticking With Mitch Trubisky As Starting QB

Ben Roethlisberger began his starter run in Week 3 of the 2004 season. A Tommy Maddox injury led to that seminal switch. Eighteen years later, the Steelers’ new first-round quarterback prospect looks like he will need to wait longer.

Although some pro-Kenny Pickett chants broke out at Sunday’s Patriots-Steelers game, the No. 20 overall pick will not replace Mitch Trubisky. While acknowledging Trubisky can be more aggressive with downfield throws, Tomlin said he is exercising patience with his quarterback (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Brooke Pryor) and offensive coordinator.

I’m not happy with much of anything when we just lost a game, but I’m also experienced enough to see the big picture, that we are still very much in development,” Tomlin said, via The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly, when asked about OC Matt Canada‘s play-calling. “I’m going to exercise appropriate patience and continue to teach and ask the guys to continue to learn in an effort to continue to push this train down the track and get better.”

This does not represent a logical week to make a switch. Following Thursday’s Browns matchup, however, a transition window opens. Trubisky’s play will dictate how much longer he has as Pittsburgh’s starter, though Pickett’s development may be a bigger factor at this point.

Pittsburgh’s offense struggled during Roethlisberger’s final season, ranking 25th in DVOA. It has offered two low-wattage performances this year. Trubisky, who has attempted 15 throws at or behind the line of scrimmage this season, enters Week 3 averaging 5.1 yards per attempt. Excluding Dak Prescott‘s one-game sample, that mark ranks as the league’s worst. Neither Chase Claypool nor second-round pick George Pickens have surpassed 30 receiving yards in a game this season.

Trubisky is not expected to keep his job throughout this season, but his two sub-200-yard performances magnify Pickett’s development. The Steelers have a Week 9 bye. Although Trey Lance, Jordan Love and Patrick Mahomes are exceptions, with their teams planning longer NFL onramps, every first-round quarterback chosen from 2017-21 had been elevated into the starting lineup by Week 10. (That list expands to 2012 if Paxton Lynch and Johnny Manziel are excluded.) With it being more norm than exception for QBs to begin their starter runs by October of their rookie year — Trubisky took over in Chicago in October 2017 — how long Pickett waits looks like it will be rather important to the Steelers’ contention prospects.

The Steelers promoted Canada from quarterbacks coach to OC last year. He replaced Randy Fichtner. Pittsburgh ranks 30th in total offense, and Najee Harris is averaging 2.9 yards per carry. Even Trubisky called on Canada to be more aggressive, though the second-year OC has not yet worked with an above-average quarterback or much offensive line talent. The offense’s performance Thursday in Cleveland certainly will be a hot-button topic.

Call concepts to get receivers there,” Trubisky said, via Pryor, on the subject of downfield passing. “When the coverage dictates that, get them the ball within that. … We like our outside matchups. We’ve got really good receivers. We’ve got really good talent across the board. We’d like to attack all areas of the field and get the ball to our playmakers. So, we could do a little bit better at everything, for sure.”