Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: QB Paxton Lynch
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: While it was nothing surprising, offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner again recently confirmed that there will be an ‘open competition’ for the third quarterback position. He also generally gushed about Paxton Lynch and talked about how he has followed his career, and that he is excited to get a better look at him.
At least for the time being, Mason Rudolph remains the presumed backup quarterback behind Ben Roethlisberger. With a short training camp window, that is unlikely to change. There aren’t even any preseason games that coaches could use to judge the other quarterbacks, so it’s hard to justify trying to make that change based only on a few weeks of training camp practices of limited intensity.
But the number three quarterback position at the very least is up for grabs, and offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said as much on Wednesday when he spoke to the media as rookies finally began to take the field (quarterbacks were also eligible to report early and thus have cleared Covid-19 testing and physicals).
A former first-round pick who has found himself on his third different team since 2016, Lynch has a lot of physical tools, but not a lot of production. Last year, the Seattle Seahawks opted to keep Geno Smith as their backup to Russell Wilson. The Steelers signed Lynch to the practice squad, but only after trading Joshua Dobbs in Week Two and then putting Ben Roethlisberger on injured reserve in Week Three.
With Rudolph and Hodges needing as many in-season reps as they can possibly get, the Steelers coaching staff could not afford to get any kind of proper look at Lynch throughout his time with the team in 2019. Training camp will really be the first true evaluation period they will have to see what he can do for them. Given the play from the quarterback position last year, I suppose they should be excited about the prospect of any alternative.