On the even of the NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to a one-year contract extension with QB Mason Rudolph, locking him up through 2022 and making him the only quarterback under contract through next season. Talking with reporters on Tuesday, Rudolph spoke about the new contract and why that doesn’t change his approach to this season or any others after it.
“It’s always good to get the vote of confidence from your team,” he told reporters via Zoom. “I think still my approach is proving myself every single day, whether that’s in an OTA when really we’re only doing seven-on-seven live or that’s in training camp or throughout the season. So hasn’t changed my mindset. Obviously it’s a vote of confidence, it’s encouraging and Pittsburgh is a place where I want to be for a long time. I love the whole organization here. It’s home. That was exciting but it doesn’t change my approach.”
The Steelers have continued to publicly praise Rudolph despite the struggles he’s dealt with throughout the first three years of his career. He has a 5-4 record in nine career starts, completing 61.7% of his passes with 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. But he’s shown some signs of improvement, arguably playing the best game of his career in the Week 17 finale last season against the Cleveland Browns. That day, he threw for 315 yards with two touchdowns. The Steelers lost that game but were playing with backups against a Browns team still fighting for a playoff spot.
With 2021 potentially being Ben Roethlisberger’s final season, Rudolph could enter the 2022 season as the presumed starter. Partially because of what he’s shown the team, and partially because he’s the only one under contract. Roethlisberger’s deal is set to void, Josh Dobbs signed a one-year deal, and Haskins is a restricted free agent, leaving the Steelers to decide if they want to try and retain him.
Rudolph says his goal, like any quarterback, is to become a starter in the league.
“My goal is to be a starting quarterback in this league and for our team,” he said. “I’m working towards that goal every single day. I can only control myself and the way I prepare and the way I approach and play in OTAs and camp. And that’s on the forefront of my mind, I’m not worried about ’22 or anything like that. I’m trying to live in the moment and be the best I can for my team.”
How much competition would the Steelers pit against Rudolph? Would they view him as the heir, would they bring in another veteran, would they try to find the next Roethlisberger in the draft? It’s difficult to know exactly what their plan is for the position right now. But those are questions and discussions best served for eight months from now after 2021 is in the rear view mirror.
Rudolph will likely serve as Roethlisberger’s backup this season. And possibly as his successor the next.