What the numbers say about Pittsburgh Steelers QB Mitchell Trubisky
Mitchell Trubisky has signed a 2-year, $14 million deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers that can reach $27 million by hitting undisclosed incentives.
There’s been smoke around this potential couple for a while now, especially in Indianapolis during NFL Combine week. With Ben Roethlisberger retiring after 18 years in the Steel City, they will rely on the former second overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
So what do the Steelers get from the former Bears quarterback?
under the center
Despite working in an almost exclusively shotgun offense at the University of North Carolina, Trubisky has been surprisingly much better under center in the NFL. From 2017 to 2020 in Chicago, his numbers under center were:
*All stats from By Sports Info Solutions
- 2,108 yards
- 8.5 meters per attempt
- 13 touchdowns
- 3 interceptions
- 103.36 passer rating
If you’ve watched the Steelers lately over the past decade, you’ve noticed Roethlisberger working the shotgun frequently. But given that Matt Canada’s college saves were listed under center, Trubisky’s impressive looks and numbers under center, changes may be coming soon.
Speaking of being under centre, one of the benefits of operating this way is that it opens up the play-action passing game more. This is something that Trubisky excelled on a professional level. He’s posted a 100 or higher pass mark on game pitches in three of his four seasons in Chicago, with 2019 being the only exception.
Due to the fact that Roethlisberger is almost never under center, the Steelers haven’t done much in terms of playing action since Bruce Arians “retired.”
With Trubisky’s intervention, you should see a fair amount of this moving forward to maximize his skills. Look for plenty of QB deployments, especially on the right side of the field next season.
The 2018 season was by far Trubisky’s best as a professional and during that season he rushed for 413 yards on 67 carries and some scoring. It was good for fifth in the NFL among quarterbacks.
He doesn’t specialize in missing people or running through tacklers, but he has enough juice to get out of the pocket to make a play.
Perhaps more impressive is the fact that out of those 67 litters, he only fumbled once. For comparison, Lamar Jackson fumbled 9 times out of 145 races that year.
Trubisky has the legs to buy extra time in the pocket or to get the ball in and run, which has been lacking since Father Time caught up with Ben Roethlisberger.
Deep Ball Accuracy
Despite the positives above, there’s a reason the former North Carolina Tarheel was available this offseason on the cheap. One of the biggest weaknesses of his game is his terrible through ball accuracy.
While that’s been a fairly consistent theme over his career as he completed just under 30% of his 20-yard passing attempts on the pitch, things have bottomed out in 2020.
Completing just 5 of his 28 deep ball attempts certainly contributed to him being benched in favor of Nick Foles. Although he has the arm strength to push the ball down the field, his lower body mechanics are a problem that dates back to the days of Chapel Hill.
The Steelers offense just didn’t create many explosive plays on the ground or in the air last season and it’s hard to see this move making any noticeable improvements.
Times of crisis
If there’s one area where Roethlisberger proved he still had it last season, it was in the clutch. He led the NFL in winning games with seven games, including one in the regular season finale against the Baltimore Ravens to take the Steelers to the playoffs.
Despite his physical limitations, he was still the same guy when it mattered late in games.
This has been a weakness for Trubisky in his career. In his first five seasons, he is 5-14 in fourth-quarter comeback chances and 7-15 in winning chances. Filling the shoes of a Hall of Fame QB is tough, but he’s going to have to prove he can count on the game at hand.
After looking at some of the positives and negatives, we now move on to the weird. Trubisky is a likely historical outlier in terms of where he kicks off football. It’s actually quite hilarious and inexplicable bordering on the fact that he’s just right-handed.
He is almost twice as likely to throw to his right as to his left. While in Chicago, he threw 412 passes to his right and just 223 to his left. There are times on film where he literally refuses to scan even that side of the pitch.
It won’t affect a specific receiver because the Steelers move their guys around a bit and aren’t glued to one side. It’s just a very weird stat that really makes him one of a kind.
Overall, this signature can be called low risk. Trubisky is unlikely to be a recovery draft despite what some hope, but he can be a short-term game manager. The Steelers’ goal next season must be to manage the game effectively to take a lead, play great defense, and respond to Trubisky’s strengths while limiting his liabilities.
Sounds pretty easy, right? Well, that’s what should have happened last season for Roethlisberger, but those conditions just weren’t met because the Steelers were an ineffective running team with a mediocre, battered defense.
At the very least, Trubisky has a season in the NFL in which he’s proven himself to be a capable NFL quarterback, which is more than you could say of the other signallers on Pittsburgh’s roster.
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