Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the season and into the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: QB Mason Rudolph
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: The Steelers’ signing of free-agent quarterback Mitch Trubisky makes it significantly less likely that Mason Rudolph will open the 2022 season as the team’s starter.
It’s been a couple of weeks already since the Steelers signed Trubisky, but there have been a lot of signings and releases to cover since then before we could really start to get into the ins and outs of how those moves affect the status of other players on the roster.
Perhaps no other player retained from last season’s roster was more consequentially affected by the Steelers’ roster decisions so far this offseason than was Mason Rudolph, the fifth-year quarterback who signed a one-year extension in 2021 for the exact purpose of hoping to get a chance to start after Ben Roethlisberger retires.
Roethlisberger, of course, did retire, but Rudolph is not going to go into the season unchecked. They have already added Trubisky, who has a much better professional career up to this point playing for a worse organization, and who should certainly be viewed as the odds-on favorite to win the starting job, regardless of what the team might say about there being a competition.
Surely, Rudolph will get a chance to prove that he’s better than Trubisky. In theory, virtually every starting job is up for grabs every year, or at least that’s what coaches tell their players to make sure everybody is giving it their all.
While it was largely expected that the Steelers would add a veteran quarterback, Trubisky is perhaps on the upper end of realistic free-agent targets, as opposed to somebody like Marcus Mariota or Tyrod Taylor, as had been discussed very early on in the post-retirement discussions.
And now there’s the draft looming, with even the team saying that they don’t intend to be done adding to the quarterback position, and that they were targeting the draft to do that. Reportedly, they are hoping to draft Malik Willis in the first round—potentially even if it means trading up to get him.
It’s not impossible that the Steelers could decide to release or trade Rudolph if they were to draft Willlis, starting Trubisky and having Dwayne Haskins as their third quarterback on the roster.
After all, while they wouldn’t count on Willis to start, they might want to have a package for him the way the Baltimore Ravens had for Lamar Jackson in the first half of his rookie season, which would mean that he would be dressing as the backup.