Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Trai Essex has heard the names of all the possible replacements for Ben Roethlisberger and remains convinced that neither the 2022 NFL draft nor the trade market is the solution.
“This is what I would do,” he said February 17 in a tweet on his verified Twitter account: “Sign Mitchell Trubisky to a 1yr prove-it deal and see if any of that (Josh) Allen magic wore off on him,” a reference to Trubisky’s spending 2021 season as Allen’s backup in Buffalo after four years with the Chicago Bears, who drafted him No. 2 overall in 2017.
“If he doesn’t pan out, it doesn’t hurt the cap pockets and we can keep it moving and draft a QB in a better class. If it does, we have our QB of the future with the benefit of tending to the other needs on the team in (this year’s) draft.”
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Essex, who played for the Steelers from 2005 to 2011, elaborated on his thought process while appearing with Adam Crowley on the February 18 episode of “The Mark Madden Show” on 105.9 The X (Pittsburgh).
“If I’m taking a serious look at this, I’m looking at the free agent pool of quarterbacks and Mitchell Trubisky jumps out ahead of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. One, because of his age (27), (and) two, because his time in Chicago did show some success,” Essex said. “Of all the quarterbacks, he showed the highest ceiling. He had some spectacular games. … He’s shown that he can get it done at a high level, albeit not consistently and that’s why he was the backup in Buffalo.”
Essex Wants Improved Offensive Line
Meanwhile, Essex said, the Steelers ought to focus on improving the talent in the trenches.
“We need to address the O-line and the D-line more than anything before we bring in a rookie quarterback or before having even Mason (Rudolph) or (Dwayne) Haskins prove themselves in camp,” he told Crowley.
That isn’t to say the Steelers don’t already have young building blocks in place on the line.
Asked who impressed him on the offensive line last year, Essex said, “Dan Moore impressed me a lot. … He got thrown in there at left tackle. … He came in and did really well and Ben (Roethlisberger) sung his praises as well and obviously saw something special in the kid. So I think if he keeps on working he’s going to be a good one. And if (Kevin) Dotson can stay healthy, the left side will be good.”
That said, “the right side is what we need to concentrate on,” added Essex, knowing that right guard Trai Turner served a stopgap role in 2021 and that right tackle Chuks Okorafor is an unrestricted free agent and “hasn’t done as much as I thought he would.”
So said Essex, whom the Steelers drafted with a third-round pick in 2005. He went to three Super Bowls and won two rings during the seven years he played in Pittsburgh, serving mainly as a backup. Specifically, he earned 28 starts and made 72 appearances along the offensive line between 2005-11, spending one year (2009) as the team’s starter at right guard.
Mark Madden Likes Mitch Trubisky Over Jameis Winston
Trai Essex isn’t the only Steelers observer who likes Mitchell Trubisky over the other available free agents.
In his February 19 column in The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Mark Madden expressed a strong preference for Trubisky over Winston, arguing that Winston is 33-44 as a starting quarterback while Trubisky is 29-21, with Winston having thrown for 135 touchdowns and 91 interceptions against Trubisky’s 64 TD passes and 38 interceptions. He said he also liked that Trubisky took the Bears to the postseason twice in four years while Winston guided his teams (Tampa Bay, New Orleans) into the playoff just once in seven years.
Winston’s numbers improved radically better after he had LASIK surgery in April 2020, suggesting that the former No. 1 overall pick may have more upside than his history with the Tampa Bay Bucs would suggest. Also a consideration is that Winston tore his ACL — and suffered MCL damage, too — in Week 8 of the 2021 season, which explains why he released the following workout video:
As for the buzz about the Steelers’ most likely course of action, using a draft pick on a quarterback remains at the top of the list, with the free agency route the next most likely direction. Some NFL observers have predicted that the Steelers will try to trade up in the 2022 NFL draft to select Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, a prospect who has been compared to former Steelers quarterback/wide receiver/running back Kordell Stewart.
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