The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.
They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom are starting.
There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. Even if they play them poorly. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: Do the Steelers need a ‘franchise’ quarterback to be competitive in 2022?
With Ben Roethlisberger heading off into retirement, the future of the quarterback position for the Steelers is now murky. All we know for sure is that Mason Rudolph is under contract for 2022, and Dwayne Haskins could be easily retained on a restricted free agent tender (unless some insane team is willing to give up a first-round pick for him after previously going unclaimed off waivers and then losing a backup quarterback competition). Theoretically, Joshua Dobbs is likely to be easily retained, as well.
It’s possible that the Steelers pursue a low- to medium-tier free-agent quarterback, though it’s highly unlikely that they would attempt to acquire an established ‘franchise’ piece like Russell Wilson. Even Jimmy Garoppolo is perhaps pushing it. And to state the obvious, the position will be on the draft board in the first round.
Let’s assume that the Steelers don’t come away with anybody whom you would see as being within the top 5-10 quarterbacks in any given season. Let’s assume that somebody like Mason Rudolph or slightly better than Mason Rudolph is their starter.
Let’s assume that they find a couple of new starters on their offensive line who are clear upgrades. Let’s assume that they re-sign JuJu Smith-Schuster and add another skill-position playmaker somewhere. Let’s assume that they retain Ahkello Witherspoon and Terrell Edmunds, and add another couple of pieces here and there. Let’s assume Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu are back and up to their usual standards.
Is that a team that is going to compete for the AFC North title and threaten to win a couple of games in the postseason? With a strong running game behind Najee Harris and a solid offensive line, a playmaking defense, and perhaps a new coordinator or two, can a quarterback like Rudolph have the Steelers in contention at say, 11-6 next season?