I mentioned this at the tail end of an article that I wrote last night about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ decision to move up three spots in the third round to land their coveted quarterback, Mason Rudolph, but I thought it would work fleshed out into a complete article in its own right. I’m pretty confident it will at least attract some attention.
The Steelers were sitting at 79 in the third round. The Cincinnati Bengals, who just lost a quality backup in AJ McCarron, were in between them. So they used an extra seventh-round pick they acquired via trade last year to jump up ahead of their AFC North rivals in order to take Rudolph before the Bengals could.
And they would have. Head Coach Marvin Lewis pretty much confirmed that last night during Cincinnati’s post-draft press conference. “We discussed” taking a quarterback on day two, he said. Asked if that’s why the Steelers jumped up ahead of them, he said, “I don’t know”, comically exasperated. “They must have our room bugged. But it was discussed”.
“There was talk of moving up to make sure we got the quarterback”, he told reporters, about the third-round selection of Rudolph. “We stood there” and lost him. Mike Tomlin “has that crystal ball”, he joked.
Lewis did speak well of the quarterbacks on the roster behind Andy Dalton, of which there are now three. They signed Matt Barkley in free agency and have Jeff Driskel, who was on injured reserve last season. They used a late-round selection on Logan Woodside out of Toledo.
Now Barkley is going to be the backup in all likelihood, but that could have obviously changed if they managed to draft Rudolph ahead of the Steelers. The shoe is now on the other foot, after the Bengals drafted William Jackson III ahead of them in the first round in 2016, though they didn’t trade up to do so. They simply placed worse in the previous season of their own accord.
Every team in the AFC North ended up welcoming a new quarterback into the fold, three of whom clearly regard their selections as at least potential future franchise pieces. The Cleveland Browns kicked the draft off by selecting Baker Mayfield and the Baltimore Ravens closed out the first round by trading back in for Lamar Jackson.
The Steelers viewed Rudolph in a similar light to those quarterbacks who were taken in the first round (all five of them, the most since 1999), though I don’t think they’re going to put any kind of pressure on him about being an heir apparent. As for Woodside, I don’t think he’s going to have to worry about that pressure either.