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Flavell's Five Thoughts: How Short is Mitch Trubisky's Leash?

The Pittsburgh Steelers will walk into the season with a lot of new.

We're nearly a month away from the Pittsburgh Steelers taking the field for the first time this season in Cincinnati. The excitement is building as players partake in training camp, and the team's first preseason game is less than a week away.

In most seasons, the most exciting part of the preseason games is seeing that shiny new first-round puck, regardless of their position, get some time on the field. This season, it's quarterback Kenny Pickett and the Steelers are searching for their next franchise quarterback for the first time in nearly two decades. That's going to cause the Steelers' preseason television ratings to be up a bit this year. It's exciting to have some competition at the most important position in sports.

Fortunately for me, I'll be doing my weekly "Flavell's Five" following every Steelers game for the third straight season. I'm very excited to be tasked with this again.

So what better time to start Flavell's Five Thoughts than now, just weeks before kickoff, to express some of my thoughts on the impending NFL season.

Will Mitch Trubisky Have a Short Leash?

It's hard to think that Trubisky won't be the Week 1 starter in Cincinnati unless he looks completely incapable of playing football during the preseason. I'm not even sure exactly how the backup position will shape up.

Pickett is the first-rounder who is already 24 years old, and the Steelers will want to make sure they get him on the field and ready as quickly as possible. But first-round picks can benefit from watching for a year before getting thrust into the jungle that is the NFL.

Mason Rudolph has shown some inconsistencies in the early part of his NFL career but also seems to have some of the tools to be a career-long backup that can help win games if he has to fill in for a week or two.

Trubisky likely didn't think the Steelers would be giving him a young player out of the draft to compete with. But when both Pickett and Malik Willis were available, it was tough for the Steelers to pass up.

Trubisky deserves another opportunity anyway. He played on a dysfunctional Bears team and then rode the pine behind Josh Allen last year but certainly could've learned a thing or two from watching him.

How much leeway Trubisky will be given remains to be seen. If the Steelers opt to keep Rudolph, it could mean that they'd like to make sure Trubisky doesn't get too comfortable as the top guy on the depth chart. Letting Pickett see the field from the sidelines for the first year might be the most prudent option for his long-term development.

Trubisky won't be the next Ben Roethlisberger. It's hard to see that being the case. But he can be a capable game manager that helps the Steelers win. He'll also make mistakes that will cost the Steelers at times, and it will be interesting to see how much of a leash Mike Tomlin gives Trubisky.

Ogunjobi, Jack Beef Up Defense

The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered some pivotal injuries last season. Their defensive front took a big hit and their ability to stop the run suffered because of it. So they went out and signed defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi and inside linebacker Myles Jack to beef up their depth at those spots.

Ogunjobi is another piece to a deep front line on defense. Jack provides a push to Devin Bush, an underperforming former first-round pick that the Steelers traded up to acquire. He tore an ACL a few seasons ago and didn't look the same in his return last season.

They'll slot into a defense that already has star power in T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick, as well as other playmakers throughout the unit.

If they can get back to stopping the run like they've always prided themselves on doing, the Steelers' defense is going to be much better for it. Relying on Minkah to make a ton of tackles again because the front seven couldn't do their job won't be something the Steelers can expect to help them make the playoffs.

Hitting the Reset Button on Pressley Harvin III

The Steelers spent a sixth-round pick on a long snapper in 2017 and then used a seventh-rounder on a punter in 2021. They clearly place a premium on special teams play.

Everyone seemed excited when the Steelers drafted Harvin, a guy who won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's best punter at Georgia Tech in his senior season. Fans grew tired of Jordan Berry's inability to flip field positioning with his relatively weaker leg.

Anytime a punter or kicker is drafted and not signed, expectations are a bit higher. The draft is usually used to strengthen more premium positions and not draft specialists. But an award winner like Harvin may sneak into a later round.

Despite there being a "competition" announced at punter by Tomlin last season, it was clear the Steelers weren't moving on with Berry unless Harvin collapsed in training camp.

Harvin had a solid first few weeks before his season really took a dive. There were even a few moments where the Steelers uncharacteristically went for it on fourth down because they didn't trust Harvin to make a solid punt.

Harvin, however, lost both his father and grandmother last season. His father passed away on Christmas morning, just days after making it to one final game at Heinz Field before his passing. Harvin's grandmother died the day before the Steelers' regular season finale.

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Harvin clearly had a trying season and deserves another shot at being the team's punter. He's down around 25 pounds this season and looks to find that leg of his that won him the punter of the year award at Georgia Tech.

Omar Khan Has Passed First Tests With Flying Colors

Following the 2022 NFL Draft, Kevin Colbert stepped down from his post as the Steelers' General Manager. The organization did their due diligence and ended up settling on their very own salary cap wizard, Omar Khan, to take over the position.

It's not like Khan has had much on his plate. He only had to re-sign the Steelers' star safety (Fitzpatrick), their top wideout in Diontae Johnson, and their pro bowl kicker Chris Boswell. No big deal. He got all three extended and they'll be Steelers for a little while longer.

Pittsburgh is notorious for shutting down all extension talks the moment the regular season starts. Getting them all locked up significantly ahead of time so they can all participate in camp with no extended hold-ins is a great move on Khan's part. The players get paid and the Steelers get their guys into practice and acclimated to their teammates for the 2022 season.

Now, Tyson Alualu, Cameron Sutton, Devin Bush, and Terrell Edmunds are the top names on the Steelers' list for 2023 to get re-signed. None are guys that the Steelers need to get signed at the moment. They all must prove their worth extending in the offseason or if the Steelers will allow them to freely walk following 2022.

Flavell's Final Prediction for 2022

If you're not excited to see how this quarterback situation pans out and how the Steelers finish this season in a fairly tough division, you can't be much of a Steeler fan.

They have three guys who could potentially start at quarterback at some point this season. They've revamped the front seven. Their biggest stars on defense are signed for the long haul. Even Najee Harris is geared up to have a better season than the one he turned in last year behind a different offensive line.

Pittsburgh will play three games in eleven days to open the season. I'll have them going 2-1 in that early gauntlet. They then get about a week and a half off before seeing the Jets, Bills, Buccaneers, Dolphins, and Eagles prior to their bye week. Heading into the bye, I'll estimate the Steelers at 5-3. They'll finish with five of their last nine at Heinz Field, including the final regular season game against the Browns. What an interesting game that could turn out to be.

With competent quarterback play, I've got the Steelers finishing at 10-7, obliterating their 7.5-win total bet prop in Vegas. That would have them one win better than last season and likely in contention for a wild card spot.

The Bengals will have a lot to prove if they want to stay on top of the AFC and come close to another Super Bowl berth. Baltimore is returning a bevy of starters after injuries last season and has a motivated Lamar Jackson playing for his big payday. Cleveland could be a factor if Deshaun Watson escapes a year-long suspension but likely won't amount to much if they are without Watson for any longer than the six games he is currently scheduled to miss.

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