Steelers release quarterback Mitch Trubisky

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Steelers release quarterback Mitch Trubisky

In a wave of cost-saving moves, the Pittsburgh Steelers released quarterback Mitch Trubisky, offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor and punter Pressley Harvin, the team announced Monday.

All together, the transactions save the Steelers $12.8 million against the cap next season, according to Over the Cap. While the moves provide Pittsburgh with some salary cap relief, they also create some significant vacancies on the roster, especially at quarterback.

Trubisky, 30, signed a two-year deal with the Steelers ahead of the 2022 season to be part of the answer in the first year after Ben Roethlisberger retired. In Pittsburgh, he had perhaps his best chance to revive his career and prove he can still be a starting quarterback in the NFL. However, four games into his first season, the offense floundered and the Steelers fast-tracked their plan by turning to then-rookie Kenny Pickett at halftime.

Despite his place on the depth chart, last offseason Trubisky signed an extension through 2025 that lowered his cap hit to be in line with his status as the backup. He had an opportunity once again when Pickett went down with Week 13 ankle surgery. However, after losing three games in a row — including two and a half with Trubisky behind center — Pittsburgh pivoted to third-string quarterback Mason Rudolph.

When Rudolph thrived, the writing was in many ways on the wall.

Trubisky was due $11.25 million over the next two years. The Steelers will save all of that in real money. They will save $2.9 million against the cap this year, with $4.6 million in dead money.

The decision leaves Pittsburgh with just one quarterback, Pickett, on its roster. Coach Mike Tomlin said at his end-of-season news conference he anticipates Pickett will reclaim his position as QB1, but there will be “competition.” It remains to be seen how the Steelers will round out their room.

Tomlin also said Pittsburgh has interest in doing business with Rudolph but noted the quarterback is a free agent and will have options. Some have speculated new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith’s history with Ryan Tannehill could also lead to a reunion.

Meanwhile, by releasing Okorafor, the Steelers save $8.8 million of his $11.8 million cap hit for 2024. They save $1.1 million with Harvin’s release. Pittsburgh drafted both players, but ultimately both came well short of living up to expectations.

Okorafor started 59 games and appeared in 77 over his six seasons with the Steelers. However, he never fully developed into the tackle they expected. This season, he was benched for rookie Broderick Jones in the middle of the season and the run game took off.

Harvin, a former Ray Guy Award Winer, was drafted in the seventh round of the 2021 draft. While his booming punts occasionally wowed, he was simply far too inconsistent to keep on the roster.

How surprising are these moves?

The releases of Okorafor and Trubisky are not surprising, but the timing is. The new league year is still a month away. The Steelers have historically been in no rush to make roster decisions before they are essential. It benefits them in no way to release players before they have to.

Yet, they felt the need to move on from Okorafor, Trubisky and Harvin a day after the Super Bowl, indicating they had no interest in moving forward with any of them. With Trubisky and Harvin, it makes sense. Not with Okorafor, who very well could have brought back a draft pick in a trade if Pittsburgh wanted to wait.

But cutting him now suggests to me whatever happened last year that got him benched was something that soured the organization too much to even try to get something for him. — Mark Kaboly, senior Steelers writer

Why Trubisky’s release was best for both sides

As Trubisky got benched late against the Indianapolis Colts, his body language coming off the field at Lucas Oil Stadium showed he would never step on the field for the Steelers again. He was mentally defeated, and a new start might do him well.

Trubisky might go down as one of the worst free-agent signings in franchise history, especially after he was presented as the team’s starter two years ago. His release was best for him and Pittsburgh’s salary-cap situation. With Rudolph a free agent, the Steelers have pretty much telegraphed they will be looking to add to the quarterback room in free agency. — Kaboly

Where do Steelers go from here at QB?

Quarterback has become the biggest looming question for the Steelers — actually questions plural.

Can Pickett take the necessary step forward to solidify the position next season? How serious is Pittsburgh about creating competition in the event the offense continues to sputter with a new offensive coordinator calling the shots? And who else will be part of the conversation?

A trade, free agency and the draft are the options. All of those possibilities should be at least explored.

As previously mentioned, Tannehill would make a lot of sense, as well. Under Smith, he managed a run-heavy offense that finished 10th in scoring in 2019 (23.3 points per game) and fifth in 2020 (29.4 points per game). He could be the right mix of experience and familiarity to push Pickett.

By freeing up the additional roster spot, the Steelers can now more seriously consider drafting a rookie at some point in the draft — either as direct competition for Pickett or as a late-round flyer with upside. — Mike DeFabo, Steelers staff writer

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