The subject was interceptions, and it was addressed with the perspective you’d expect from Mike Tomlin in the early stages of a training camp.
“When you work good on good, or Steelers vs. Steelers, someone’s success is someone else’s failure,” Tomlin opined following last Thursday’s slingin’-in-the-rain session at Saint Vincent College. “So I don’t over-evaluate that. If they took care of the ball today, we’d be talking about why the defense didn’t get it.
“That’s the nature of team development.”
The good-on-good dynamic also applied last Saturday, when outside linebacker T.J. Watt grabbed a sideways pass from quarterback Mitch Turbisky and jogged into the end zone for a pick-six.
The crowd went crazy and the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year celebrated by launching the ball into the stratosphere.
But that still isn’t what anyone wants to see from Trubisky, particularly when the pick-sixes are that easy.
Trubisky’s first interception of camp had resulted from a bang-bang play on which strong safety Terrell Edmunds poked a ball from tight end Zach Gentry’s grasp (inside linebacker Devin Bush eventually collected the deflection). That was more good on good than it was not good enough.
Trubisky’s second was a theft by inside linebacker Robert Spillane, who isn’t famous for his pass coverage.
No. 1 pick Kenny Pickett slogged through being intercepted on his last pass of last Wednesday’s practice (rookie defensive back Carlins Platel) and then his first pass of last Thursday’s exercise (rookie defensive back Chris Steel). Pickett has avoided the indignity of a pick-six, but only because defensive back Linden Stephens dropped what should have been a house call for the defense last Friday.
Mason Rudolph was the only quarterback who emerged from the first week unscathed, but that was attributable, in part, to cornerback Justin Layne dropping what should have been an interception.
That Rudolph has emerged as the unofficial leader of the QB Derby through Week One says more about what Trubisky and Pickett haven’t done than it does how Rudolph has performed.
They’ve all had their moments.
Trubisky found Gentry behind inside linebacker Myles Jack last week with what Gentry described as a “perfectly-thrown ball, especially watching it on film.”
Pickett took advantage of his long-awaited first rep in “Seven Shots” by hitting wide receiver Tyler Vaughns on a beautiful back pylon-fade in the much-publicized goal line/short-yardage drill last Saturday.
And Rudolph has for the most part delivered the ball where it’s supposed to go (even while at times holding onto it too long).
But there’s been no one quarterback who’s body of work has stood out to the extent that it would inspire the “that’s the guy” reaction the Steelers hope will eventually be forthcoming.
That’s neither surprising nor disappointing at this early juncture, but it’s also something that’ll need to change as camp progresses.
Even when it’s good on good, the quarterbacks need to be better.