If there is a quarterback who has been rumored to be unhappy with his situation on his current team, or a team unhappy with their quarterback situation, then it has been a virtual guarantee that somebody would link him to the Pittsburgh Steelers at some point this offseason.
The Steelers have their own ‘situation’ at quarterback, with 17-year starter Ben Roethlisberger coming off of a season of questionable character. Soon to be 39 years old and with a surgically-repaired throwing arm, he threw four interceptions in the postseason, ensuring that the team will have gone four years without a single playoff victory.
Among the names that the Steelers have been linked with by those on the outside so far this year are Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson, both of whom have requested trades from their current teams, the Detroit Lions and the Houston Texans, respectively. The idea of Aaron Rodgers has even been floated out there, among a number of other names, not to mention even draft picks.
While it is entirely expected that Roethlisberger will be back in Pittsburgh in 2021 for perhaps one final season, the reality is that the end is drawing near, and owner Art Rooney II hasn’t publicly ruled out the possibility of a split, citing the salary cap, and a need to do a deal.
Though he has made these comments recently, he has been led to answer further speculative questions about what the team would do without Roethlisberger, and how they would approach the quarterback position, citing some of the names that have been floated around.
“I would be guilty of tampering if I started mentioning names of quarterbacks we might be interested in, so I’ve got to shy away from that”, he told Andrew Stockey of WTAE. “We would obviously overturn every stone we could if we had to be in that situation, but I will say that we feel good about Mason [Rudolph] and his development and his ability to continue to develop. I think we’re in a good situation as far as that’s concerned”.
The Steelers drafted Rudolph in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He started eight games in 2019 while Roethlisberger was injured, but posted pedestrian statistics, and wound up being benched toward the middle of the season in favor of an undrafted rookie. He got the opportunity to start the season finale this past year and performed better.
But he is not entering the final year of his rookie contract, and I think Rooney’s comments reflect the obvious, which is that they would not go into a season in which they were leaving Rudolph as their only option for a possible starter. They would have to at least bring in some competition. But that won’t be 2021, and Rudolph might not even be here in 2022.