Who will be under center at the quarterback position for the Pittsburgh Steelers come September? Most people seem to think that it will be somebody who is not currently on their roster. I think the Steelers internally probably think this, as well. But publicly, they continue to voice support for Mason Rudolph, who happens to be the only arm currently under contract for 2022.
“Again, if we started today, Mason’s our starter, and we’re comfortable with Mason being our starter”, general manager Kevin Colbert told Around the NFL earlier today during the Combine. “Again, I referenced 5-4-1 over his first nine starts. If you look back over the quarterbacks in history and look at their first 8, 9, 10 games, that record compares pretty favorably. Ben was the one outlier”.
Ben being, of course, Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ long-time franchise quarterback who announced his retirement last month. Rudolph has been his direct backup for the majority of the past three seasons—outside of a five game stretch during which he was benched in 2019, while Roethlisberger was actually on the Reserve/Injured List.
Rudolph officially went 5-3 in eight starts during the 2019 season, though he was benched during one of those wins while the team was losing, Devlin Hodges coming back to win. He was also the quarterback that started a go-ahead drive in one of those losses, when he was concussed and left the game.
He has started two games since then, neither a victory, including a tie during the 2021 season against the then-winless Detroit Lions. Outside of the organization, feedback has been pretty much universal that they cannot move forward with Rudolph as their starter, including some very harsh comments by former Steelers players. But even the team recognizes that Rudolph is simply the best quarterback currently on the roster, and that there’s an excellent chance that will change.
“Mason will have to prove it. Does that mean we’re not going to look at options? No. And he knows that”, he said on the show. “We’ve talked about it, in his exit interviews. He understands he’s going to not be given anything, and there could be competition, either from within or from outside”.
Previously, Colbert has already said that the Steelers intend to bring four quarterbacks into training camp this year, as they always do, so, including Dwayne Haskins, who is expected to be retained as a restricted free agent, that means there are still two other quarterbacks to be added.
It is inevitable that at least one significant name will be added to this position group, either through trade, free agency, or the draft. It is well within the realm of possibility that two such names could even be added, should things break this offseason in such a way that makes sense to do that.
Could they sign Mitchell Trubisky in free agency and then draft Malik Willis in the first round? Of course they can. And if that happens, I wouldn’t count on Rudolph beating out the room to be the opening-day starter.