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Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Regardless of whether Wilson or Fields start, the Steelers will have put together an unusual streak

By Vaseline May26,2024

When Russell Wilson or Justin Fields start the 2024 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers will have done something they haven’t accomplished in nearly four decades. ‘Accomplish’ is probably not the right term for it. This is an achievement that teams don’t exactly tout. But it will be the first time since 1982-85 that the team has had a different quarterback in Week 1 four years in a row.

This time it’s guaranteed to happen. Pittsburgh turned over their entire quarterback room this offseason, a group that now includes Wilson, Fields, Kyle Allen and rookie John Rhys Plumlee. Ben Roethlisberger ended his Hall of Fame run in 2021 and hung up his cleats after the season. Pittsburgh’s transition since then began with Mitch Trubisky in 2022, losing his spot to Kenny Pickett a month later. Pickett was the clear starter for 2023, but his season went downhill after the preseason and he was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles two months ago. Now either Wilson or Fields – likely the first – will get the nod.

What the hell happened in the 80s? A good question generally just ask, we’ll stay specific here. It was a similar transition from their last franchise quarterback. Terry Bradshaw’s last starting year came in 1982 before an elbow injury ended his career. He would play in 1983, but made just one appearance, throwing two touchdowns in a Week 15 win over the New York Jets. The first man drafted to replace him was Cliff Stoudt, a former fifth-round pick. His 1983 kickoff performance was a disaster, completing barely half of his passes and throwing three interceptions in a 14-10 loss to the Denver Broncos.

The rest of Stoudt’s year wouldn’t go much better, leading the team to trade for Miami Dolphins QB David Woodley to start the 1984 season. He started but did not finish the game due to a concussion in the third quarter, with Pittsburgh falling to Kansas City early in the year. Finally, Mark Malone was the team’s starter in Week 1 (he replaced Woodley in ’84 but did not start) to open the ’85 season against the Indianapolis Colts. It turned out to be one of Malone’s best games, a five-touchdown performance in a lopsided 45-3 win. It remains the second-biggest Week 1 win in Steelers history, a record at the time and surpassed only by their 43-0 shellacking as they welcomed the Cleveland Browns back to the NFL in 1999.

Malone would break the streak starting the 1986 season, starting 14 games. He would also start the 1987 Week 1 game before Bubby Brister got the keys in 1988. To summarize and compare.

Steelers Four QB changes (2021-2024)

2021: Ben Roethlisberger
2022: Mitch Trubisky
2023: Kenny Pickett
2024: Russel Wilson/Justin Fields

Steelers Four QB changes (1982–1985)

1982: Terry Bradshaw
1983: Cliff Stoudt
1984: David Woodley
1985: Mark Malone

Comparing the two yields semi-similar results. Obviously, this is the catalyst and reason why teams start four different quarterbacks to start four different years. There was the aging franchise quarterback who could still flash, but whose bodies were breaking down. You had veterans like Trubisky and Woodley. You had the first round picks that didn’t work out in Pickett and Malone (Malone spent a lot more time in Pittsburgh).

Considering Wilson and Fields are free agents after the season, there’s a chance this streak could extend to five. But Pittsburgh is counting on one of these guys to work out and sign an extension after the season. As long as the Steelers continue to play in these musical quarterback seats, they will never be a true contender.

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