Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
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. 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 season as we move forward.
Player: QB Mason Rudolph
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: With Ben Roethlisberger set to return, Rudolph figures to remain as a backup rather than as a starter while playing out a contract year.
In the event that the Steelers decided to part ways with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, which, given his stated desire to continue playing, would have meant releasing him, Mason Rudolph was in line to start in 2021. While this was always extremely unlikely to happen, the progression toward a restructuring of Roethlisberger’s contract to bring him back for the upcoming season means Rudolph will be stuck in a backup role during the final year of his rookie contract.
That’s never ideal for a quarterback, or any player at any position, to fail to nail down a starting job before you hit free agency. After all, you want teams to see what you look like in the role that would be asked of you, because otherwise, they will be reluctant to pay you very much.
The way it’s currently looking, Rudolph will play out his rookie contract having never held a starting job, though of course he had an extended stint in the starting lineup during the 2019 season while Roethlisberger was out for the season with an elbow injury.
That tape left something to be desired, however, and he didn’t get much playing time last season to make up for it. He did, of course, start in the regular season finale in a losing effort, but was able to connect on some deep passes and throw for more than 300 yards.
Whether or not Roethlisberger plays a full season remains to be seen, but considering the fact that he has been averaging about 650 pass attempts per 16 games over his past two healthy seasons, the odds don’t favor him getting many opportunities this year if events continue to unfold as they do.
His best bet would be for Roethlisberger to struggle enough to get himself benched. There would be a shorter leash than normal for such an event because the team would want to get an extended look at Rudolph if possible during the year before he becomes a free agent.