Former Steeler Jim Miller knows about quarterbacking in both Pittsburgh and Chicago. He knows what a cluttered QB room is like, having been in that situation with Neil O’Donnell, Kordell Stewart and Mike Tomczak.
And he knows the game of new Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky pretty well, too.
Miller is a Sirius-XM Radio host and a Bears postgame show analyst for Fox 32 in Chicago. That’s where Trubisky started his career before rebooting it as a backup in Buffalo last year.
“It was good for Mitch. He needed a breath of fresh air. He was kinda being vilified as the problem maker for the Bears and why they weren’t winning. But it was more than that,” Miller said Tuesday on WDVE.
Actually, the Bears did win a fair amount when Trubisky was the starter. In 50 Trubisky starts between 2017-20, the Bears were 29-21 and made the playoffs twice, losing their first game both times.
But when Miller says “it was more” than Trubisky’s inconsistency and inexperience during his first four seasons in the Windy City, what he means is what was going on with Matt Nagy and the Chicago coaching staff.
A popular narrative among Steelers fans, who want to anoint the Trubisky signing as a success before he ever plays a game in Pittsburgh, is the presumption that Trubisky is a great quarterback who was stunted early in his career by a bad coach and constant change over when it comes to the play-calling duties.
The coach who drafted him, John Fox, was fired after Trubisky’s first season. Matt Nagy took over. At various points in Trubisky’s time as a Bear, Dowell Loggains, Mark Helfrich and Bill Lazor all had the title as offensive coordinators. Nagy even took over the play-calling duties himself during his tenure.
Miller said the constant shuffling did interfere with Trubisky’s development, describing him as a “young quarterback who went through a lot of growing pains” in those four seasons under what he characterized as a system that was “too pass-happy” under Nagy.
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“Mitch didn’t really have a lot of support. He is a winning quarterback … but when you make a coaching change, the quarterback is normally going to go with it,” Miller said. “Mitch was cast in a bad situation. He was a young quarterback with only 13 starts in college and was growing. It looks bad on him. But it wasn’t all Mitch Trubisky, I can tell you that.”
That may all be true. But, as Miller pointed out, Trubisky does have his own flaws.
“In terms of his pocket passing awareness, it was improving in Chicago, but it can get better,” Miller insisted. “His biggest struggle is the long ball. His long ball is a little flat. He can correct that, where he just puts a little more arc on the ball so it is more catchable for the receivers.”
One positive trait Trubisky has is good athleticism and running ability. Miller said Trubisky may need to do a better job of picking his spots as to when he should use it, though.
“He’s got some jets,” Miller said. “He can scoot. He’s a good athlete. He’s tough. At times, his toughness gets the best of him. He’s got to know when to get down, slide, get out of bounds.”
Miller also described a dynamic that was probably all too familiar to him having previously been Stewart’s teammate. Miller said Trubisky had a noticeable push-pull struggle going on within himself, where — for as dynamic of a runner as he may have been — Trubisky would sometimes refuse to escape the pocket in an effort to try to refine his pocket passing game and prove to the world he could be NFL-worthy throwing the ball as well as running with it.
“He could’ve utilized (his athleticism) even more. But he was forcing himself to throw from the pocket,” Miller explained. “The Bears were trying to make him a pocket passer. At times, he needs to be who he is. Just adapt and adjust and be that backyard playground (player) when you need to pull those plays out. Sometimes he was trying to play too much from within the pocket.”
So if you are hoping to wait until at least the preseason before the Kordell comps came out, sorry to disappoint.
Miller also talked about the support Trubisky will get from the Steelers skill position players, the similarities of dealing with negativity in both Chicago and Pittsburgh, and how Trubisky’s locker room demeanor should help him once he gets to the South Side.