The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Mason Rudolph will open the 2022 season as the Steelers’ starter.
Explanation: This is a question about a somewhat distant future, but that’s what makes it interesting. It’s time to place your wagers on what you expect to happen over the course of the next year. What we currently know is that Mason Rudolph is the only quarterback under contract for 2022 after recently being given an incentive-laden extension based on playing time. The team has no commitments to Ben Roethlisberger beyond this year, as his contract voids five days after the Super Bowl.
Unless you think the Steelers are going to win the Super Bowl, or at least get to it, you probably shouldn’t think Ben Roethlisberger is going to be here next year. That’s basically the only way they’re going to bring him back for another season. They barely brought him back this year after he took a pay cut.
Dwayne Haskins and Joshua Dobbs are not even a part of this discussion. Neither of them are ever going to be a starter in this league (again in Haskins’ case). So the only discussion at that point is whether or not a rookie starts. Now, the Steelers are going to try to land a top rookie next year. Even if they succeed, they’re not going to rush him into the starting lineup, similar to Baker Mayfield and Justin Herbert. They’ll play when they’re ready. That may be after a couple games or a season, but either way, it results in Rudolph kicking things off.
The Steelers will never enter a season with Rudolph as their intended starter. Either Roethlisberger is going to be here next year, or a rookie is. If Roethlisberger is not here, then he probably performed poorly enough that it made the decision to move on easy, and the team is probably in a position where they can put together a package to move up for a quarterback.
And in case you haven’t noticed, in recent years, the trend is for these guys to play. Mayfield and Herbert were the exceptions, and they weren’t necessarily better for it. And chances are Tyrod Taylor isn’t going to be on the roster to get in Theoretical Rookie’s way.