Mark Madden: Starting with Mitch Trubisky, little to like in Steelers camp so far

Mitch Trubisky has mostly struggled at Steelers training camp. He had a streak of 17 straight incompletions during “seven shots.” On Thursday, Trubisky punctuated going 0 for 4 during one team period by swinging his helmet in frustration.

Trubisky is with a new team and learning a new offense. Hiccups were inevitable. But except for a good day Wednesday, the first two weeks went rough.

Rookie Kenny Pickett isn’t a prodigy. He’s holding onto the ball too long, often pulling it down if his first read isn’t there.

Mason Rudolph has been the most consistent of the quarterbacks. That might only be because he knows the offense, but that’s a big distinction.

The Steelers are on the playoff bubble if they’re lucky, and the odds of them getting as lucky as they did at the end of last season aren’t good.

Ben Roethlisberger was so immobile last year, he could have used a walker. But I kept games close. When the final 15 minutes came, he assumed the play-calling and used his guile to squeak out six fourth-quarter comeback wins (and another in overtime).

The Steelers won’t get that this year.

Roethlisberger’s critics say that improved quarterback play and an offense expanded by way of QB mobility will put the Steelers in a better position to win after the first three quarters.

To them, I ask: Are you sure about that?


More from Mark Madden

• Mark Madden: At Steelers camp, there are issues more interesting than daily dissection of QB battle
• Mark Madden’s Hot Take: Steelers didn’t draft Kenny Pickett to be quick fix
• Mark Madden: Steelers’ quarterback situation seems to be pointed in the right direction


The Steelers’ quarterback “competition” is a sham. Trubisky was preordained the Week 1 starter the minute he signed, barring injury.

But pretend the “competition” is real. Consider a dumb idea the Steelers won’t do.

How long does the “competition” last? Would it make sense to start Rudolph Week 1 at Cincinnati, then go from there? If Rudolph wins, leave him in. If he doesn’t, see how long it takes Trubisky or even Pickett to truly catch up with the learning curve.

It’s a stupid notion, even more so because the preseason games haven’t been played. The exhibitions have rarely meant as much as this year, especially as regards the QB position. That said, Trubisky would have to absolutely stink to lose the job.

But he’s given that a decent run so far.

The Steelers face an odd kind of pressure this season.

Very few see them making the playoffs. But the coaches and players expect it. The Steelers have trouble seeing themselves as they are. Lesser teams tend to con themselves.

Trubisky is trying to restart his career, Pickett is trying to establish his career, and Rudolph doesn’t want his career to end.

Coach Mike Tomlin has that overblown streak of never having a losing season.

The defense is the NFL’s highest paid and has three truly elite players but still might not be that good. It wasn’t last season.

The offensive line just hopes that nobody gets killed on their watch. It’s one of the NFL’s worst.

Different people are facing different kinds of pressure.

The pressure on Tomlin goes beyond his streak.

This is Tomlin’s first season without a Hall-of-Fame quarterback. It’s a team that needs to be coached above its talent level to succeed.

Let’s see if Tomlin is as smart as he thinks he is, and needs to be.

It’s not been a great camp so far. Very little positive is standing out. TJ Watt is dominant but is playing against the Steelers’ offensive line. Watt might double the NFL’s single-season sack record if he played 17 games against that line. (But will Watt be healthy enough to play 17 games?)

It might take two seasons to recover from Roethlisberger retiring and the state the roster finds itself in. That wouldn’t be unreasonable, but the fan base isn’t known for its patience.

Or perhaps the Steelers are stuck in the cycle of finish middle, draft middle, stay middle.

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