Insider Casts Doubt on Future of Steelers’ Latest ‘Hostage’

Mike Tomlin

Getty Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

Last week Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II raised eyebrows when he told Bob Pompeani of KDKA-TV that Mitch Trubisky will be back with the Steelers next season. “I expect Mitch will be on the roster next year and be an effective backup if we need him,” said Rooney.

But on January 27, 2023, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic discounted that statement, despite the fact that it came from ownership.

Kaboly: Mitch Trubisky ‘Seemed Miserable’ Last Season

“I see where he’s talking about. You want a veteran quarterback that knows your system and has had somewhat of a success here,” Kaboly began, during an interview with The PM Team of Andrew Filliponni and Chris Mueller on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh. “But I don’t want a backup quarterback for eight million bucks. I want Gardner Minshew for like three million bucks or something to that effect. I think he (Rooney) said that just for the fact that he’s still under contract, obviously, and who knows if you can find anybody cheaper and better.”

Kaboly is referring to the fact that Trubisky is scheduled to be paid an $8 million salary in 2023,” as per the two-year contract that the former No. 2 overall pick signed in March 2022. But the Steelers can release Trubisky, save the $8 million, and then look for a new backup in free agency, having incurred a relatively modest $2.625 million dead cap hit,” according to

Anyway, Art Rooney II — not to mention head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Omar Khan — might not want Trubisky to return if he indicates a desire to play elsewhere in 2023.

“I wouldn’t expect Trubisky to be back. He seemed miserable at the end of last season…. He was a hostage, right?” quipped Kaboly, making reference to one of the most famous Tomlinisms. In fact, ‘We need volunteers, not hostages,’ has been invoked many times in the past five years, with those words being used in conversations relating to former Steelers players like Le’Veon Bell, Melvin Ingram and Steven Nelson.

“(Trubisky) still thinks he can play and he’d have a better chance somewhere else. So, if he wants to push the issue, of course he can get out of here,” noted Kaboly, who believes that third-string quarterback Mason Rudolph is as good as gone as well.

“I can tell you one thing is for sure. Mason is not coming back. He packed his stuff and was out the door before you even knew it. He has no interest in coming back here, and I don’t blame him. So they are going to have to find somebody,” concluded Kaboly.

Josh Dobbs to Return, Again?

That said, if Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph both leave, the Steelers will need two new quarterbacks next season, one of whom might come via the draft. The other is likely to be a veteran, with aforementioned 5th-year veteran Gardner Minshew (Jaguars, Eagles) being one option.

Another is former Steelers backup Josh Dobbs, who started two games for the Tennessee Titans at the tail end of the 2022 season. Dobbs — a 4th-round pick of the Steelers in 2017 — served as Ben Roethlisberger’s backup in 2018 before being traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2018. The Steelers brought him back for 2020-21, and in 2022 he spent time with the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions before signing with the Titans.

Regardless, the Steelers figure to spend a very small percentage of their cap dollars on quarterbacks in 2023. Starter Kenny Pickett — who was selected No. 20 overall in 2022 — has a guaranteed salary of just $1.344 million in 2023 (as per and will count just $3.197 million (1.4%) of the team’s cap.

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