Steelers make QB Mitch Trubisky a captain, another indication he will start

Ray Fittipaldo
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers named Mitch Trubisky their starting quarterback Monday afternoon. Well, not officially. Apparently, that will come Tuesday when head coach Mike Tomlin holds his weekly news conference in advance of Sunday’s season opener in Cincinnati.

But for all intents and purposes, Tomlin and the Steelers designated Trubisky as their starter when they announced him as one of the team’s five captains.

“You can assume anything you want,” Trubisky said with a sheepish smile after practice. “The announcement will come out when it has to come out, but you’re not going to hear it from me. We’re just going to go about our business.”

Trubisky took the majority of the reps with the starting offense since being signed as a free agent in March. He started all three preseason games and came out on top of a training camp competition against rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett and veteran Mason Rudolph.

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Tomlin, however, has refused to publicly name Trubisky as the starter, all while having some good-natured fun with reporters who have asked him about the topic almost every day since camp started in late July.

“He’s a guy that guys rally around,” said veteran defensive end Cam Heyward, who was also named a captain along with linebacker T.J. Watt, running back Najee Harris and special-teamer/safety Miles Killebrew. “He’s all about team. He’s very bought in. He understands it. Coach T says it: He’s carrying our hopes and dreams on every single play. I think he’s gotten more and more comfortable. Guys are excited to play for him. He came in with the right mindset. It’s not always easy being the quarterback position. All three quarterbacks have been great, if I’m being honest, but Mitch is the guy we’re riding with. He’s allowed us to have a lot of trust in him.”

Mitch Trubisky (10) of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during an Aug. 28 game against the Detroit Lions at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh.

Trubisky, who was chosen with the No. 2 overall pick by the Chicago Bears in the 2017 draft, was last a team captain when he was at the University of North Carolina. He started 50 games for the Bears over four seasons and twice led the Bears to the playoffs, but under former coach Matt Nagy, the Bears named captains on a weekly basis.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” he said. “Anytime you’re voted by your peers and your teammates, it obviously means a lot. I just try to come in here and lead by example and earn the trust of my teammates.”

Even though quarterbacks are natural leaders given the position they play, they aren’t always named Steelers captains under Tomlin. Ben Roethlisberger was not voted a team captain until the 2008 season, four years after he was drafted. He remained a captain for every season after that, except for 2010.

Trubisky tried to take on a leadership role from the minute he signed. He took the other quarterbacks, receivers and running backs to Florida for a week of workouts in April to help the bonding process. But in the end, he merely tried to show up for work every day and be consistent in his approach. He believes that helped more than anything in becoming a team leader.

“I was just me,” Trubisky said. “I come in here every day and work my tail off, obviously show knowledge of the offense and all that. But I think just being a great teammate, being a great leader, being someone the young guys can look up to to do things the right way and just be a guy who wants the best for this team and to lead in the right direction. … I was voted by teammates. It means a lot they thought I was worthy of this honor. I have to make sure I live up to it.”

Harris was voted captain in only his second season. At 24, he is the youngest player to ever be named a captain under Tomlin.

“He doesn’t say a lot, but he was destined to be a captain,” Heyward said. “He was a guy that when you look at our roster, he’s the bell cow. Sure, we’ve had bell cows who have been captains, but it’s what he does off the field. He is locked in. The guys follow him. He’s going to be that one guy years down the road you’re going to say, ‘Najee Harris, Steelers captain again and again and again.’ “

Trubisky said Harris is more mature beyond his years and has a special gift for building relationships with his teammates.

“The first day I signed, he flew in to meet me and talk about what we’re going to do this year and be a great teammate,” Trubisky said. “He was there for me from Day 1. Those are the little things people don’t see that leaders do on a day-to-day basis. Having those relationships that go deeper with your teammates, that’s why he is who he is.”

Killebrew is a team captain for the first time with the Steelers, Watt for the second time and Heyward for the eighth consecutive year.

“I appreciate these moments,” Heyward said. “I don’t take them for granted. I go in with a new perspective every year, just trying to get better. All those guys who have gone different places or retired, I wear them on my sleeves. I appreciate them. I don’t have a 12-year career without being teammates with them. I represent those guys even if they retired. Hopefully one day, I can say we won a Super Bowl because of those guys, too.”

Steelers add three to practice squad

The Steelers signed veteran safety Andrew Adams, cornerback Josh Jackson and linebacker Delontae Scott to their practice squad.

Adams, 29, has played in 87 NFL games with 35 career starts for the Giants and Buccaneers. He was cut by the Giants last month.

Teams can have 16 players on their practice squads, including six veterans without any limitation on their accrued seasons. Like Adams, Jackson, 26, is one of those veterans. Jackson has 15 career starts in 44 games with the Packers and Chiefs.

Scott spent most of last season on the Steelers’ practice squad. He was called up to the active roster for one game.