2020 Offseason Questions: Will There Be An ‘Open’ Competition For Backup QB?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.

The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.

How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Will the Steelers hold some type of ‘open’ competition for the backup quarterback position?

The Steelers have three young, or at least youngish, backup quarterbacks on their roster—really, four, including J.T. Barrett, who certainly would not be happy about his being excluded from the conversation. Mason Rudolph was the team’s first-round-graded prize, but he struggled enough to get himself benched last season when he had the chance to play.

While the team continues to say that Rudolph is their backup ‘for now’, in so many words, Mike Tomlin’s most recent remarks would seem to at least leave the door open to the idea of somebody else seizing that role, whether it’s Devlin Hodges or Paxton Lynch, or, improbably, somebody that they sign as a free agent between now and the start of the season.

Rudolph should still by all means be the overwhelming favorite to be the Steelers’ backup quarterback in 2020. The extent to which he will have to ‘earn’ that distinction is more up in the air. They’ve been talking about Lynch every time the backup role has been brought up, for example, and how they didn’t really get to look at him last year.

So they’ll want to look at him this year, no? And last year, Hodges got fourth-team reps all the time except when Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t practicing. In other words, they’ve seen a lot more of Rudolph than they have of the others on the roster. Will they see some second-team work as a result of that, and what will that signify, if anything?

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