With each passing day, it seems to become increasingly clear that the Pittsburgh Steelers have no interest nor intention in perusing the veteran backup quarterback market this offseason. Not only would it not be particularly cost-effective for them to do so, given their tight budget, all those in charge continue to support and believe in both Ben Roethlisberger’s health and Mason Rudolph’s abilities.
Roethlisberger, the 16-year starter, played just a game and a half in 2019 before he was sidelined for the rest of the season due to an elbow injury that required surgery. He is a couple weeks out from a critical test that will judge the progression of his recovery.
As for Rudolph, he was drafted in the third-round in 2018 with an eye toward him possibly being the heir apparent at the position. He was given a lengthy tryout opportunity in 2019, and did not exactly pass with flying colors. Nevertheless, they remain optimistic about his future, at least as the number two for now.
“We feel good about it. Obviously we have to monitor it as the offseason progresses, but for now we feel good about Ben coming back and playing at a high level next year”, Art Rooney II said, “and Mason being his backup. I don’t think at this point we really plan to explore bringing in another veteran backup quarterback”.
The idea of them foregoing the veteran quarterback market also is an indication that they will stick with Devlin Hodges as their number three quarterback. Hodges, a 2019 rookie undrafted free agent, started six games last season, going 3-3. He ultimately threw five touchdowns to eight interceptions.
For now, however, that’s not their prerogative. The attention is on Roethlisberger and the man who will be backing him up. And Rudolph still had plenty of bright spots, despite being sidetracked by injuries on multiple occasions.
“He certainly had an unusual year. A lot of ups and downs and weathered a lot of different storms”, Rooney said of his first season of competitive action as a pro. “Hopefully, he came out of it battled-tested and learned a lot. I felt like particular at the end, if he could have stayed healthy, I think he would have helped us make it into the playoffs”.
Hodges was benched in favor of Rudolph in the second quarter of the penultimate game of the season, at which point the Steelers still controlled their playoff destiny. Taking over with a 10-point deficit, he was able to erase that by halftime before suffering an injury that would knock him out for the rest of the year.
Hodges was reinserted, given that there was no other option, and they would go on to lose that game, also losing control of their own destiny. They would also lose in the finale in a game in which the offense and special teams spotted their opponents nine points. Hodges had a critical fumble in the game that was the downward turning point.