With our series breaking down each position on the roster completed, it’s time to turn our focus on what is going on within each position, and on the roster as a whole. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be taking a closer look at some of the roster battles that we expect to see unfold over the course of training camp as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the start of the 2020 season.
This is not a conventional offseason, of course, for obvious reasons, which is likely to play a role in many of these battles, some in ways that we might not foresee. Generally speaking, it should favor players who have greater experience, but there’s a reason these questions are left unanswered until we get on the field.
Up for Grabs: Backup Job
In the Mix: Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges, Paxton Lynch
While the Steelers have consistently said throughout the offseason that they are comfortable with Mason Rudolph as their backup quarterback, head coach Mike Tomlin also never hastens to remind that, technically, every job is open every year.
And there is no reason that Rudolph’s role should be taken as secure. While he should be considered a lock to make the roster, he is not guaranteed to be the backup quarterback. After all, we only need to look back to last season to see him get benched.
Last season, in his first action of his career after spending his rookie season inactive, Rudolph went 176-for-283, throwing for 1765 yards with 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions. It was a flurry of interceptions in a midseason game against the Cleveland Browns that got him benched.
He was replaced by Devlin Hodges, who managed to how on to his job for four games before getting pulled for Rudolph, who was then promptly injured again. He had to start the season finale, which the Steelers again lost.
Even with Hodges’ struggles at the end of the year, he still performed well above expectations for a rookie undrafted player who wasn’t even signed after the draft. He has the obvious potential to improve from one season to the next. Rudolph did. Joshua Dobbs did. Of course Hodges will, too, and he is already ahead of where either of them were as rookies.
Then there is Paxton Lynch, who at times seems to be one of the most popular players on the team. I like to joke that there is no player more popular in town than the backup of a struggling starter. Sometimes it’s the backup to the backup of the backup of a struggling (or injured) starter.
Lynch has pedigree and the physical tools. He also has a history of organizations giving up on him as a former 2016 first-round draft pick. This may be his last shot.