Since the signing of Mitch Trubisky and the drafting of Kenny Pickett this offseason, the writing has been on the wall for incumbent QB Mason Rudolph. While Mike Tomlin has made it clear that all three QBs will have a chance to compete for the starting job this training camp, Rudolph appears to have been passed up by Pickett as the #2 QB on the depth chart given the distribution of reps in last week’s training camp practice and the order the QBs took the field last night against the Jaguars.
Despite seemingly being the odd-man-out, Rudolph has performed well in his two preseason games and throughout training camp, completing 17-of-21 pass attempts for 127 yards and the go-ahead TD pass to Tyler Snead last night to secure the victory for Pittsburgh in Jacksonville. The game before that, Rudolph completed 9-of-15 pass attempts for 93 yards and a beautiful TD pass to George Pickens in the back of the end zone.
Simply put, Rudolph has performed well as the team’s likely #3 OB on the depth chart. However, the drumbeat of a potential trade of Rudolph prior to the start of the regular season has grown louder and louder in recent weeks despite GM Omar Khan’s recent comments that they weren’t going to actively shop Rudolph. However, Khan did mention that they would take calls if the phones rang regarding potentially dealing a QB with Rudolph being the most likely candidate as he in on the final year of his deal with Pittsburgh.
Still, it always takes two to tango. Thus, here are three plausible trade destinations based on perceived need and interest that Rudolph could be dealt to for the right price.
1. The Pittsburgh Steelers trade Mason Rudolph to the Los Angeles Rams for OLB Justin Hollins and a 7th round pick
Analysis: Alex Kozora has already laid out a scenario of the Los Angeles Rams being a logical landing spot for Mason Rudolph given their current QB situation. Matthew Stafford has been dealing with an elbow issue that he dealt will all last season and has held him out of parts of training camp practice this summer. While the Rams seem high on backup John Wolford, but he only has one career start in 2020 and has just 42 career pass attempts to his name and no TD passes.
GM Les Snead has fully embraced the F-Them-Picks mentality, often trading nearly their entire draft class of picks for veterans at key spots. However, the Rams don’t have a lot of draft capital to play with in 2023, hence why they include OLB Justin Hollins in the deal with a Day Three pick for Rudolph. Hollins was on the Steelers radar when coming out in 2019, having visited with him at the East/West Shrine Game. He has been primarily a backup since entering the league, but has the length, size, and athleticism to be a rotational player and key special teamer for Pittsburgh behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. With Hollins entering the final year of his deal too, a swap seems logical for both sides.
2. The Pittsburgh Steelers trade Mason Rudolph to the Minnesota Vikings for OG Wyatt Davis and a 2023 6th round pick
Analysis: I had a Minnesota Vikings fan reach out the other day inquiring about the availability of one of the Pittsburgh Steelers QBs given the options behind Kirk Cousins. Sean Mannion has been a journeyman of sorts and Kellen Mond hasn’t exactly progressed the way the team has hoped for after taking him in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Thus, a trade for Rudolph would help Minnesota shore up the QB position as they look to complete for the NFC North crown in 2022.
For this scenario, the Vikings would send a 6th round pick back to the Steelers for Rudolph along with OG Wyatt Davis. Davis was a highly touted guard coming out of Ohio State, often being regarded as a potential first round selection early in the draft process before falling to the third round. However, Davis moved on-and-off the practice squad last season, failing to record a snap for the Vikings in 2021. Seemingly buried on the depth chart, Davis appears to be out of it in Minnesota, but could enjoy a change of scenery in Pittsburgh with an offensive line group that has continued to struggle this preseason.
Pittsburgh had interest in Davis during the pre-draft process, attending his Pro Day at Ohio State. One would hope that he could come in and challenge Kendrick Green and Kevin Dotson for snaps at LG and at worst be a capable backup option at either guard spot. Pittsburgh needs to continue making investments along the offensive line and acquiring a former pedigree player on a discount could be in the cards.
3. The Pittsburgh Steelers trade Mason Rudolph to the Cleveland Browns for a 2023 5th round pick
Analysis: Yup. That’s right. You read that correctly. Mason Rudolph to the Cleveland Browns. Seems crazy to think that he would get dealt to the same team that has Myles Garrett who nearly bashed his head in with his helmet a couple seasons ago, right? Well, given the circumstances their team is going through at the moment, the possibility of Rudolph being dealt within the division isn’t as crazy as it seems.
Pittsburgh has shown a willingness to trade in the division before, acquiring DE Chris Wormley from the Baltimore Ravens. The Cleveland Browns are obviously facing a notable situation with their QB Deshaun Watson getting suspended the first 11 games of the season and will have to rely on Jacoby Brissett to keep them afloat until he returns. While Brissett has been a respectable backup, he owns an underwhelming 14-23 record as a starting QB which isn’t a strong vote of confidence for a team with Super Bowl aspirations this year. Many will point to Jimmy Garoppolo as a more likely trade target, but Garoppolo has a base salary over $24 million this season and is coming off shoulder surgery.
The 49ers would also likely ask for more in a Garoppolo deal than what Rudolph would get traded for, hence why the deal between the two is plausible at least. Should Pittsburgh be offered a 5th round pick or more for Rudolph, it would be hard to see them turn the deal down. Pittsburgh could opt to trade for a player instead to help their roster at linebacker or along the offensive line, but for a team lacking comp picks coming in for 2023, a 5th round selection would be much-appreciated.