PITTSBURGH — When Mitch Trubisky takes the field Sept. 11, it will have been 609 days since his last start, a Bears playoff loss in New Orleans.
A lot has changed since.
Trubisky left the Bears after the 2020 season and spent a redshirt year with the Bills, throwing only eight passes but learning at the feet of Josh Allen, one of the league’s best quarterbacks. His gap year deodorized his Bears struggles enough that the Steelers signed him to a two-year, $14 million deal in March.
“I had a lot of growth off the field, as well — becoming a father, getting married,” he told the Sun-Times on Tuesday, standing in front of his black and yellow locker. “But this is the position I wanted to be in — to be in a position to compete and get back on the field. And to prove I can be a starter in this league.”
Trubisky has taken starter’s snaps since signing with the Steelers — even after the team drafted local legend Kenny Pickett at No. 20 overall. Pickett was a Heisman Trophy finalist at Pitt; the Panthers and Steelers share a stadium, and both practice at the UMPC Rooney Sports Complex on the shore of the Monongahela River.
Trubisky’s solid performance against the Lions on Sunday — he went 15-for-19 for 160 yards and a touchdown against a team he always has dominated — seemed to lock in his starter status for Week 1. He took first-team snaps Tuesday.
His second act as a starter is ready to begin.
Not that his offensive coordinator will say so out loud — yet.
“Coach has to make a decision,” Matt Canada said.
That man, Mike Tomlin, is delaying a public proclamation — and seemingly enjoying every second of it.
“Who is to say it’s not settled?” Tomlin said coyly. “I am just not making any announcements. It’s fruitless for us. We’ve got work ahead of us.
“And so that is not on our agenda to make any announcements to feed The Beast. We don’t care about The Beast.”
Trubisky has seen The Beast before.
In 2017, the Bears signed Mike Glennon, who had started five games the previous three seasons, to a three-year, $45 million contract. Seven weeks later, while Glennon was attending a team-sponsored draft party downtown, then-general manager Ryan Pace traded up to pick Trubisky No. 2 overall out of North Carolina. Pace paid a premium for the privilege of drafting Trubisky, who had 11 starts at North Carolina, over Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes.
Glennon took most of the starting snaps that preseason — and eventually was so disappointing that the Bears turned to Trubisky after four games. After John Fox was fired at the end of the year, new coach Matt Nagyteamed with Trubisky on a 2018 team that won 12 games, the franchise’s most since their Super Bowl season in 2006. Trubisky struggled the next two seasons, though, causing the Bears to decline his fifth-year option in May 2020. Nagy lasted in Chicago only a year longer than Trubisky.
Trubisky hasn’t talked to Nagy in a long time. He’s careful not to trash his experience in Chicago, saying his favorite moments with the team surround his teammates.
His descriptions of the Bears and Bills, though, are noticeably different.
“It was a great culture [in Buffalo],” he said. “A new offense, very quarterback-friendly. I learned how to process quicker and how there’s great communication and trust between the quarterback and the [coordinator], everybody. They just let the quarterback play freely. I think that gives the position a lot of confidence.”
Did he not have that in Chicago?
“Um,” he said. “There were a lot of things going on, and there was a lot of change throughout the four years, whether it was learning a new offense or having different coordinators.”
Trubisky started nine games in his last season with the Bears, famously being replaced by Nick Foles in the third quarter of Week 3 in Atlanta. He got hurt on a gadget play later in the year and returned to start the team’s last six regular-season games, reaching the playoffs as the NFC’s first-ever No. 7 seed.
Long before that, though, he was Pickett — a rookie fighting for a starting job. Now, he’s in the Glennon role, likely beginning the season as a starter — and needing to play well to keep his job.
“Whether you’re the veteran helping the young guy, embrace your role,” he said. “Having those constant communications in the meeting room, out at practice. Anything I can do to help him and be a better teammate, that’s what I’m doing. When I was a rookie, that’s what the veterans were doing for me.”
Trubisky, who turned 28 earlier this month, has been living the veteran life since wife Hillary had a boy, Hudson, in May. His work ethic is more focused now, he said. He’s all business during the day, so he can be a parent at night — though he goes back to watching film when the baby sleeps.
“I’m not saying he wasn’t mature in Chicago,” said Steelers guard James Daniels, who spent the last four years with the Bears. “But he went through adult stuff — and he feels more adult.
“He’s been good. Things have been going good so far.”
Trubisky thinks so, too, as he awaits Tomlin’s proclamation. He claims he hasn’t been told if he’ll be the starter in Week 1 against the defending AFC champion Bengals. And he won’t ask Tomlin, either.
“When he says it,” Trubisky said, “that’s when it’ll need to be said.”
It would be special, though, 609 days after his last start.
“It’d mean a lot,” Trubisky said. “I’m looking forward to it.”