Aubrey Bruce: The Steelers just don’t have the QBs to make a difference

Imagine this… As you prepare for an MMA or WBO fight, to sharpen your skills a sparring partner is hired. Miriam-Webster defines a sparring partner as: “Someone who helps a boxer practice: someone a boxer spars with for training.”
Generally, that means the partner hired is supposed to simulate the same habits and traits of the fighter that you are about to face. You can’t spar against a featherweight-class fighter when you are scheduled to fight a heavyweight opponent. Your speed and reaction skills may be enhanced but you may be at-risk when and if the time comes that you may be faced with the dilemma of absorbing a punishing blow from a heavyweight challenger. This is the first component of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive woes. After the Steelers suffered consecutive losses to two of the most inept teams in the NFL in 2023, the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots, the guillotine is now being sharpened to decapitate the heads of the defense.
The Steelers have lost two straight games to opponents with won-loss records far below .500. Why? Well, simply because of the defensive preparation (or lack thereof) for the Steelers. Not intentional neglect but not being able to simulate the reaction of the opposing team’s quarterback to the defensive game plan of the Steelers.
During weekly pregame practice, the Steelers spar against inferior quarterbacks. However, when game time rolls around, the opposing team’s signal-callers have a distinct advantage, because the Pittsburgh defense has practiced against quarterbacks with slower reaction times, possibly providing a false cushion when faced with quarterbacks that react much faster to the Steelers’ defensive schematics than the current Steelers QBs, Kenny Pickett, Mitch Trubisky, or Mason Rudolph. When a team practices against inferior position players during the week, it will certainly show up on game day, to be certain.
Folks are hemming and hawing about the Steelers’ defense giving up tons of yardage to the opposing teams’ tight ends. Nothing against the Steelers’ starting tight end Pat Freiermuth, he may have Fred Biletnikoff-type hands, but he does not possess Usain Bolt-type speed. When the Steelers are faced with practicing against Freiermuth on a daily basis, there is a distinct possibility that the opposing teams’ tight ends may appear as if they possess the speed of the former world’s fastest human, and current NFL Hall-of-Famer, ex-Dallas Cowboys’ split end, the late “bullet” Bob Hayes, when they line up against the Black and Gold on game days.
Is it possible that opposing teams exploit open spaces in some of the Steelers’ defensive zone coverages based on the simple fact that opposing players get to the open areas of the Steelers’ coverage schemes faster because they are faster athletes, and their quarterbacks react faster when holes open up in the zones than Kenny Pickett or any of his supporting cast as the Steelers prepare for the competition? There is another consensual opinion and analysis that seems to leap from the keyboards of a few of the ultra-right political pundits masquerading as sportswriters. This quote was recently posted by Christopher Kline on “It’s not uncommon for receivers to get frustrated with subpar QB play, but Pickens has a troubling history of public unhappiness this season.”
The Steelers have a recent “troubling history” of bum-like quarterback play. If the Steeler offense is far beneath subpar, does the NFL definition of free speech “trump” the definition provided by the United States Constitution? If a player or a coach speaks out about lousy play of a teammate or an incorrect call by an official, they may be shunned in the locker room or fined by the NFL.  Are these dictatorial rules a reprise of “Gone With The Wind?” Frankly my dear, we all better give a damn.
The recent quarterback performances of the Steelers quarterback corps, just plain stinks.
Steelers backup QB Mitch Trubisky, (currently filling in for the often-injured Kenny Pickett) is now occupying the Steelers’ starting QB position and it’s very “volcanic first chair.” The Steelers’ third-string signal caller, Mason Rudolph, is the new “king of the clipboard” for the Steelers.
Rudolph was elevated to the “throne of uselessness” when the former “Emperor of the backup quarterbacks,” ex-Steeler QB Landry Jones, was deposed along with his “golden clipboard” from the Black and Gold kingdom.
Steeler players, quarterbacks in particular, had better spend less time monitoring and addressing post-game comments made by their teammates and spend more time performing on the field.
Before Kenny Pickett was mistakenly drafted in the first round of the NFL 2022 draft, one of his best attributes was his mobility.  Remember his “fake slide” against Wake Forest in 2021 and run for a TD? Now he has morphed into a “steel toed diva” expecting, even demanding that the Steelers’ offensive line become an impenetrable wall to allow him 10 or more seconds per pass attempt while he wanders around in the pocket, waiting for a receiver, running back or tight end to become open or for him to eventually be unceremoniously sacked.
My final point is at this juncture, the defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers is dog tired at the Steelers offense that in most cases, doesn’t come alive until after the first half.  Also, most of the time, the offense is behind the 8 ball after a turnover and must be rescued by the defense. What does the Steelers defense need to be, characters from a Marvel heroes movie?’
The Steelers offense will not progress and get better, in 2023 or 2024, until the powers-that-be “fess up” and admit choosing Kenny Pickett in 2022 and acquiring Mitch Trubisky in March of 2022, was a waste of time and money.  Pedigree will not set you free, only performance.




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