Should the current backup quarterback situation with the Pittsburgh Steelers be considered one of the top nine roster holes in the entire NFL ahead of training camps around the league getting underway? Senior NFL Analyst Gil Brandt of NFL Media believes so. In a recent post on NFL.com, Brandt ranked the nine biggest roster holes across the NFL and the Steelers backup quarterback situation came in ninth on that list.
Below is what Brandt penned about the Steelers current backup quarterback situation and why he has that as the ninth biggest roster hole in the NFL:
Scattershot play at this position is primarily what kept Pittsburgh out of the 2019 postseason. Ben Roethlisberger is back after missing most of 2019 with an elbow injury, but his backups remain Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges — who struggled in Roethlisberger’s place last season — unless Paxton Lynch or J.T. Barrett can snag a spot. This is a gamble, considering Big Ben is 38 and has taken a beating at points during his Hall of Fame-caliber career. Just like the Rams, the Steelers could turn to Newton, who is capable of guiding this squad to the playoffs should he be pressed into service.
None of us, including Brandt, should be surprised right now when it comes to what the Steelers quarterback depth chart looks like. For starters, the Steelers are confident that Roethlisberger will at least be his old self in 2020 after missing most of the 2019 season due to a serious elbow injury that required surgery. Roethlisberger is back throwing NFL passes to teammates once again as of a few weeks ago and there are no indications that he won’t be ready to resume his career in Week 1 on the road against the New York Giants.
When it comes to the two quarterbacks that played last season in Roethlisberger’s absence, Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, it’s true that neither were Pro Bowl worthy in each’s play last season. With that, it’s also important to recognize that the offense was missing a few other key pieces throughout the season in running back James Conner and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. In fact, the Steelers offense ran 455 total plays last season with one of either wide receivers Deon Cain, Johnny Holton or Tevin Jones on the field. 93 of those 455 plays included two or more of those players on the field at the same time. Oh, and free agent bust wide receiver Donte Moncrief played 50 more snaps than he should have following his debacle of a game in Week 1 against the New England Patriots.
Ever since the 2019 season, the triumvirate of team president Art Rooney II, general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin have all stood in confidence and support of Rudolph being Roethlisberger’s backup in 2020. As for Hodges, the same really can’t be said so we figure to be set for a training camp battle between him and Paxton Lynch, who was the team’s No. 3 quarterback on the 53-man roster last season from the middle of October on, for the right to be the No. 3 in 2020. As for J.T. Barrett, he’ll be lucky to stick on the Steelers current 90-man roster throughout all of training camp. That’s it, that’s the depth chart, that’s the way it’s been the entire offseason and it’s not likely to change.
If you were one of many screaming for the Steelers to sign one of Jameis Winston, Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton, or the still unemployed Cam Newton this offseason, you obviously didn’t pay too much attention to what all Rooney, Colbert and Tomlin said all offseason long. The breath spent on hollering for the team to sign an experienced former starting quarterback on the cheap should have been spent on something more realistic happening.
As for Brandt mentioning that the Steelers could still turn to Newton, it’s unfathomable that the franchise would see him as a fit any time in the near future barring Roethlisberger having some sort of a severe setback between now and the start of the regular season and Rudolph showing that he’s still the same quality of quarterback during training camp and the preseason he was the moment he got benched last season in the game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Even if you currently stand with Brandt when it comes to the Steelers quarterback depth chart being one of the biggest glaring holes not only on the team, but league wide as well, it’s not going to change. Personally, I think the team currently has a bigger hole than that at both the starting nose tackle position and the backup safety position.
The only way we’ll find out if Brandt’s assessment of the Steelers quarterback depth chart is correct is if Roethlisberger winds up missing playing time once again in 2020. If such an occurrence happens, God forbid, and Rudolph can’t suffice as a replacement, Brandt and others screaming for the team to sign a veteran backup this offseason will be vindicated. However, until we find out how things play out in 2020, it’s time to accept the fact that Rudolph is likely to be Roethlisberger’s backup moving forward with either Hodges or Lynch serving as the No. 3.