With training camp just around the corner, it’s time to turn our focus on what is going on within each position, and on the roster as a whole. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be taking a closer look at some of the roster battles that we expect to see unfold over the course of training camp as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the start of the 2021 season.
Unlike last season, which was carried out through a pandemic, things should return much to normal this year, which should help provide us with clearer insights into where people stand. The return of the preseason in particular is a crucial window into operations that we lacked a year ago.
Up for Grabs: Backup Job
In the Mix: Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
Maybe some will be offended with me for not including Joshua Dobbs on this list. Others will be bothered by the fact that it’s even being treated as a competition. The odds strongly favor Mason Rudolph, who this offseason signed a one-year extension through the 2022 season, being the backup again this year, for the third year in a row.
But that doesn’t mean there can’t be a competition. The Steelers are kicking the tired on Dwayne Haskins, a former first-round pick who has more starting experience than does Rudolph, and who has more natural talent, as well.
It’s not inconceivable to think that Haskins might be better than Rudolph, if he’s put in the right set of circumstances and takes accountability for his own life and his success. He was not put in a good position to succeed during his time in Washington.
While the Steelers invested very little in him—including nothing guaranteed—they did sign him with the idea that there might be something to him. A shot in the dark at a potential significant talent. And if he has that talent, then we should see it in training camp and the preseason.
After all, if he can’t earn the backup job this season over Rudolph, then the odds of his eventually developing into a franchise quarterback are incredibly low. This is his third season in the league by now, and frankly, the era of quarterbacks having years to develop is gone, not just because of impatience, but also because quarterbacks come into the league more prepared to lead NFL offenses than before.
Under that logic, even if there isn’t anything at stake in terms of loss of investment, it has to be the case that the backup quarterback position—the player who would be directly behind Ben Roethlisberger for playing time—is up for grabs, or at least open to revisitation.