Mentor's Mitch Trubisky decent in return home with Steelers, but QB change chatter likely to remain

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Sep. 23—Approximately 24 miles separated Mitch Trubisky between Jerome T. Osborne Sr. Stadium, his old stomping grounds, and FirstEnergy Stadium on Sept. 22.

In a football life, that journey probably feels like it has a lot more mileage.

Difficult as it may be to fathom, the affable hometown hero Trubisky is a decade removed from being 2012 Mr. Football and one of the premier quarterbacks in News-Herald coverage area lore at Mentor — the rare justified use of the word "star" at the high school level — and where he found himself amid "Thursday Night Football":

As starting quarterback for the Steelers, against his hometown team in the Browns, and, likely, with a ton of proverbial weight on his shoulders trying to maintain his No. 1 role under center.

#NHfootball Mitch Trubisky discusses getting better going forward & being able to play in primetime a half-hour from his old stomping grounds at Mentor

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) September 23, 2022

Not to mention, a hungry Browns team that had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory four days prior against the Jets.

Trubisky didn't necessarily regress, but didn't progress immensely either, in a 29-17 loss to the Browns. He was 20-for-32 passing for 207 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions — for a QB rating of 81.1 — and contributed a rushing touchdown.

Pittsburgh has now scored 54 points through a 1-2 start.

"I think a little bit of rhythm, and then we just didn't hit on the plays we needed to," Trubisky said of the difference before and after halftime. "There were plays in the second half that — they were plays that might have made a different story. I think there's a few more details in there that we've just got to watch on the film. But that's kind of where it felt like in the second half. We needed to hit some plays, and we just didn't.

"We've got to watch the film and see where we can get better."

It wasn't Trubisky's first venture onto the gridiron downtown. As a sophomore signal-caller at Mentor in 2010, Trubisky took the field there against St. Edward, and there was also a preseason appearance with the Bears.

Suffice it to say, this occasion was a much different entity. But playing a half-hour from his old stomping grounds meant a great deal.

"It was cool. It was really cool," Trubisky said. "It's nice to be back home. It felt good. It felt very welcoming.

"I would have loved to get a win, but it was definitely special coming back home and playing in front of my friends and family. It meant a lot, but we've got to come out with a win."

The winds were announced as being 21 mph at kickoff, as the winds of change potentially awaited with Steelers fans clamoring for touted rookie Kenny Pickett this past weekend after a 17-14 loss to the Patriots.

On the field a few hours later, Trubisky's consistently calm demeanor remained steady.

#NHfootball More from Mitch Trubisky following the Steelers' 29-16 "Thursday Night Football" loss to the Browns

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) September 23, 2022

Trubisky pointed out a blitz to his line, evaded pressure from linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. on a rollout to his right and found Diontay Johnson for a 13-yard first-down completion on his first play from scrimmage. Despite the drive stalling before midfield, Coach Mike Tomlin gave Trubisky a low-five of encouragement as he jogged to the sideline.

Trubisky stepped up in the pocket against heavy pressure in the second quarter and found a wide-open Johnson for another first-down completion. He later scored on a run toward the Dawg Pound as Pittsburgh took a 14-13 lead late in the opening half.

"I was reading the end and pulled it," Trubisky said. "The O-line did a great job with their blocks. Pat (Freiermuth) had a great block, and we got in the end zone."

#NHfootball Mitch Trubisky discusses half-over-half inconsistency in the Steelers' 29-16 loss to the Browns

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) September 23, 2022

Trubisky was 9-for-13 passing for 109 yards in the first half, including 6-for-7 for 65 yards in the opening quarter.

It's not to say the emotion wasn't visible on occasion.

On a designed run late in the third, Trubisky felt as if he had more room if he could have avoided an arm swinging out for a trip tackle, pounding his hand on the ground three times.

As Trubisky and the Steelers took over down, 23-14, early in the fourth, the pressure under which the QB finds himself was summarized in one tweet by Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio: "It's time for Mitch to save his job."

It's time for Mitch to save his job.

— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) September 23, 2022

Then came a three-and-out, likely intensifying the chatter even more.

Then a sack forcing a punt when the Steelers got the ball back still down nine, making the noise louder.

"I just think we missed some plays that we had that could have went either way, especially in the second half," Trubisky said.

"It's only going to get better if we stick together."

Preceding a drive in the second quarter down, 13-7, Metallica's "For Whom The Bell Tolls" blasted.

Trubisky — who exchanged jerseys postgame with his fellow 2012 Tony Fisher award recipient Kareem Hunt — remains hopeful the bell hasn't tolled yet on his time as the Steelers' starter.

"I feel like I'm in a good rhythm with my routine," Trubisky said. "I felt good tonight. We've just got to be better in the second half."