How will the Pittsburgh Steelers handle their quarterback opposition depth chart the remainder of the offseason, and will rookie Kenny Pickett at least start the 2022 regular season as the team’s backup? We have a long way to go to find out the answers to those questions and several other related ones, but in the meantime, however, it certainly sounds like speculation is growing that fifth-year quarterback Mason Rudolph won’t be a member of the Steelers come Week 1 of the regular season.
During a recent interview on 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore, Gerry Dulac, who covers the Steelers for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, made it clear what he thinks will ultimately happen with Rudolph by Week 1 of the 2022 regular season, after being asked to run down the team’s quarterback situation following mandatory minicamp.
“I think the plan is, and I don’t think there’s any question about this, unless something would dictate otherwise, including injury, I think Mitch Trubisky will go into the regular season as the starter,” Dulac said. “And NFL teams don’t draft quarterbacks number one to have him be the third quarterback and a gameday scratch. So, I expect Kenny Pickett to be the guy who dresses on gameday. And because he’s a five-year veteran, I think they will treat Mason Rudolph with a little bit more respect than to keep him around as the third quarterback and a gameday scratch.”
So, what does that mean for Rudolph in the eyes of Dulac? Exactly what you think it does.
“And I think, you know, they will probably try to move him, trade him, get something for him,” Dulac said. “They like Mason Rudolph, but I think the way they’ve positioned themselves – you know, after the season, shortly after they said they’re comfortable with Mason Rudolph, they went out and brought in two guys over him. Mitch Trubisky within the first hours of free agency, which tells you something about their urgency and desire to get not only him, but a quarterback like him. And then even after doing that, they used their 20th pick in the draft to take a quarterback.
“So, I think that tells you what they think of their ability at that position, or lack thereof, and they wanted to, you know, obviously try to upgrade it as much as possible with the departure of Ben Roethlisberger. So, I think that’s the way they are looking, they are positioned right now, heading into training camp. And I think that’s the way it’ll, you know, I think as they get toward the regular season, I think that’s the way it’ll play out with Kenny Pickett as being the second guy.”
If you have read my work and listened to my thoughts on the podcast so far this offseason, you know that I think the same way that Dulac does. In fact, right after the Steelers selected Pickett 20th overall in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, I tweeted that I thought the team should look into trading away Rudolph. Not soon after that, the Steelers added another quarterback in the seventh round of the draft in the form of Chris Oladokun.
Steelers should now trade Mason Rudolph for a 5th because Kenny Pickett can be the backup. #Steelers
— Steelers Depot 7⃣ (@Steelersdepot) April 29, 2022
Now, will and should the Steelers trade away Rudolph right now, or before the start of the regular season? Unless they get their doors blown off with an offer, I don’t think they should. After all, injuries at the quarterback position could happen between now and Week 1 of the regular season so it would be a good idea for the Steelers to stand pat on all their quarterbacks.
Personally, I don’t think we’re going to see a lot of Rudolph during the preseason. Why should we? The Steelers know all they need to know about Rudolph at this point, and besides, Mitch Trubisky, Pickett and Oladokun all need to get as much work as possible in the team’s three exhibition games. I mean, we’re likely looking at a maximum of 210 offensive snaps played in the Steelers’ three preseason games, right? Why waste many, if any, on Rudolph?
If Pickett and Trubisky both stay healthy and perform well the remainder of the summer, Rudolph can be dealt for whatever they can get for him. You never know what another team might be willing to give up for Rudolph after the preseason has been completed and especially if a few teams have an injury at their quarterback position.
Rudolph is set to earn $3 million in 2022 and that’s too much to pay to a third-string quarterback. Sure, the team would have a dead money charge of $1.04 million in 2022 should they ultimately trade Rudolph away, but that’s peanuts in the grand scheme of things and especially if they could get a 2023 fifth or sixth round selection in return for him.
These kinds of situations always seem to work themselves out in the long run and I believe that will be the case this year with the Steelers four quarterbacks. If I were forced to bet right now, I would bet that Rudolph will indeed be gone via a trade by Week 1, assuming the other three quarterbacks all stay healthy the remainder of the summer.