The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books. It ended in spectacular fashion — though the wrong kind of spectacular — in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.
Since then, they have lost several players in free agency who were key members of the offense and defense. Multiple starters retired, as well. They made few notable additions in free agency, and are banking on contributions on offense from their rookies, as well as perhaps a last ride for Ben Roethlisberger.
The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions. Right now, they lack answers. They know that they have Roethlisberger for one more year, but was that even the right decision? How successful can Najee Harris be behind a questionable offensive line? What kind of changes can Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm bring to the offense? And how can the defense retain the status quo with the losses of Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton?
These are the sorts of questions we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football is a year-round pastime and there are always questions to ask, though there is rarely a concrete answer. This is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all of their uncertainty.
Question: Will Mason Rudolph get the opportunity to show whether or not he can be the team’s starter of the future?
Before we begin, I’d like to remind everybody that not every question asked is supposed to be a question that can be immediately answered. It’s okay to ask unanswerable questions about the future and discuss them, and even speculate about the possible answers. Today’s question is of that variety, as was yesterday’s. In short, yes, this is a question about the future; no, we can’t possibly know the answer yet; and yes, we are still tackling it now.
The 2021 season is, of course, all about Ben Roethlisberger. As of now, we have no idea whether or not he will want to return in 2022, let alone if the Steelers will want him to. The team did extend Mason Rudolph’s contract into the 2022 season, however. He talked yesterday about how it is his goal to be the starter next year—which is why we’re discussing the topic today.
A third-round pick in 2018, Rudolph has put out some good tape in spurts. Overall he has not demonstrated the consistent qualities of a franchise piece, at least in-game. He has a winning record, but much of that was because of the defense—and another was a Devlin Hodges comeback after Rudolph was pulled.
In the meantime, the Steelers also added former first-round pick Dwayne Haskins. It’s presumed that Rudolph will win the backup quarterback job this year. But will he be the team’s starter in 2022? That would mean that Roethlisberger isn’t coming back, and also possibly that they didn’t draft a quarterback, at the least.