The NFL Nation beat writers are already hard at work when it comes to producing offseason content for ESPN.com. On Wednesday, in fact, ESPN.com released an article on offseason predictions for all 32 NFL teams and included in that was quite a bold prediction for the Pittsburgh Steelers from Brooke Pryor.
Pryor’s bold offseason prediction for the Steelers is that the team will add a veteran quarterback to the roster.
“Even if he’s not one who has been in the system for a decade, an experienced signal-caller could have solved many of the issues that arose when Ben Roethlisberger went down and they were left with Mason Rudolph and Devlin “Duck” Hodges. The Steelers should be able to fix some of those issues with the hiring of new QBs coach Matt Canada, but adding a veteran to the room is a smart insurance policy.” ~ Brooke Pryor
Well, that certainly is somewhat of a bold prediction on Pryor’s part. For starters, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has already tabbed third-year quarterback Mason Rudolph as the team’s 2020 backup behind starter Ben Roethlisberger, who is looking to return from a serious elbow injury that sidelined him nearly all of the 2019 season.
“I’m comfortable with Mason Rudolph,” said Tomlin during his late December end-of-the-season press conference. “I’m disappointed that he missed the amount of time that he did. Injuries are a part of the game. He had an opportunity there to grow and grow in a lot of ways and get a lot of experience. He missed some time due to injury and performance and so forth, but I am comfortable with Mason Rudolph.”
During that same press conference that he tabbed Rudolph as the Steelers 2020 backup behind Roethlisberger, however, Tomlin was asked if he might be inclined to look for a veteran quarterback during the offseason to possibly serve as the team’s third quarterback in 2020.
“I don’t even know what the potential market is as I stand here, to be quite honest with you,” said Tomlin. “We’re in a self-analysis, and some of the questions you guys are asking are outside of us, and I’m just not ready to weigh those options. We’re open to any and all options that are going to allow us to put the strongest football team that we can on the field, but to stand before you and act like I have an understanding of the depth of the veteran quarterback market would be an untruth.”
Obviously, Tomlin didn’t completely rule out the possibility of adding a veteran quarterback during the offseason to be the team’s third quarterback in 2020. However, the Steelers head coach did recently have a few positive things to say about veteran quarterback Paxton Lynch, who due to a late-season-ending injury to Rudolph ended the 2019 season as the team’s No. 2 quarterback behind then-rookie undrafted free agent quarterback Devlin Hodges.
“In practice, when he’s [Lynch] running scout teams and so forth, you see the arm strength, the arm talent, the size, the fluidity of movement and things of that nature that got him drafted in round one for sure,” Tomlin said of the former first-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos out of Memphis.
If indeed the Steelers ultimately do decide that they would like to add yet another veteran quarterback to battle for the No. 3 spot during the offseason as Pryor boldly predicts might be the case, their pickings will seemingly be slim, and especially with the team not having much in the way of salary cap space. In short, they would likely have to add a veteran quarterback willing to accept a minimum salary. Lynch, by the way, is scheduled to earn a mere $735,000 if he ultimately makes the 53-man roster in 2020.
With Roethlisberger still facing a lengthy rehab process this offseason, the Steelers might decide to carry four other quarterbacks on their 90-man roster up until the start of training camp. They currently have four besides Roethlisberger under contract entering the offseason in the form of Rudolph, Hodges, Lynch and J.T. Barrett, who ended the 2019 regular season on the team’s practice squad after Rudolph was injured. Adding another veteran backup would likely result in Barrett being cut.
We’ll wait and see how this position group ultimately plays out the remainder of the offseason but as things stand right now in early February, Pryor’s bold prediction that the Steelers will sign veteran backup quarterback between now and the start of training camp appears to be extremely bold.