To the public, the Pittsburgh Steelers have projected nothing but confidence in their quarterbacks. Ben Roethlisberger will fully recover. Mason Rudolph is still the future. Look! There’s Paxton Lynch. Remember him?
And maybe that’s how they really feel. We may disagree with their assessment – I have the same confidence in Rudolph as “kid who forgot there was a test today” – but perhaps Kevin Colbert and company are being honest.
But even if they aren’t quite that confident and in a perfect world, would love to upgrade, they don’t have much of a chance to shake up the QB room.
Their options in trying to make any changes are incredibly limited. You can upgrade your team in two ways. Free agency or the draft. Neither are a viable path for this team.
Free agency? Not a chance. The Steelers couldn’t pay for parking with the cap space they have. The few signings they’ll make next month will be bottom of the barrel. Depth players who have dealt with injury, poor production, ones who have likely bounced around the league for several years. And quarterbacks on the open market aren’t cheap. Even backups. Given the scarcity of the position and the money starters make, Teddy Bridgewater might get $20 million per season, backup prices inflate too. Marcus Mariota isn’t signing for the minimum. He’s going to command multi, multi million dollars on the market, something the team couldn’t afford even if they wanted to find that cliche “veteran backup” alternative.
And the draft? Financially, it’s much more feasible but the Steelers don’t have the draft capital to invest. Only six selections, two in the top 100, with plenty of holes to fill and no free agency money to address it the way they did with, say, Steven Nelson last year. That investment has to be on building this roster to win now. Not later. That means focusing in on offensive playmakers, interior offensive line depth, a replacement for Javon Hargrave, and often overlooked safety depth which is currently non-existent.
Once they get out of Day Two, chasing a quarterback isn’t worth it anymore. The hit rate is so low. You’d just be muddying the waters at a position that, when the time comes, needs an all-in investment. That time may be next season depending on Roethlisberger’s future plans and the development of Rudolph (or lack of). But the goal is to win a Super Bowl now, not post-Ben.
Cross out free agency and cross out the draft. What’s Pittsburgh left with? Status quo. To be clear and fair, there’s reason to share in their outward optimism. Rudolph had as bumpy of a year as you’re going to find but bounced back in his final appearance against the Jets. He took his lumps, made lots of mistakes, but those are typical of young quarterbacks pressed into unexpected action. He’ll have an offseason to learn, grow, develop, and should come back as a much different player this August. Ditto with Hodges and even Lynch, who should have a spirited battle for 3rd string.
The only move remaining on the board? Not making one. The four QBs they have now, I don’t expect JT Barrett to make it to camp, sorry not sorry, are the four that will be here come the preseason: Roethlisberger, Rudolph, Hodges, and Lynch. Any suggestion otherwise is just noise, offseason boredom, or a misunderstanding of where this organization is at.
It also ignores the universal comments made by the entire front office when generally speaking, they’re quite honest about their offseason plans. And they’ve made it clear. A quarterback isn’t going to happen.