The Steelers are now in their offseason after failing to reach the playoffs in 2022, coming up just a game short of sneaking in as the seventh seed. They needed help in week 18 and only got some of it, so instead they sat home and watched the playoffs with the rest of us.
On tap is figuring out how to be on the field in January and February instead of being a spectator. They started out 2-6, digging a hole that proved too deep to dig out of even if they managed to go 7-2 in the second half of the year.
Starting from the end of the regular season and leading all the way up to the beginning of the 2023 season, there are plenty of questions that need answered, starting with who will be the offensive coordinator. Which free agents will be kept? Who might be let go due to their salary? How might they tackle free agency with this new front office? We’ll try to frame the conversation in relevant ways as long as you stick with us throughout this offseason, as we have for many years.
Question: How open is Mason Rudolph to returning to the Steelers as the backup?
It was a couple of days ago at this point that a report surfaced about where five-year veteran quarterback Mason Rudolph may currently stand. Due to become a free agent for the first time in his career, Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that Rudolph’s primary goal is to explore his alternative options, but would not “close the door unnecessarily” to returning to Pittsburgh.
Rudolph has some perhaps justifiably sour grapes in terms of his time in Pittsburgh. He spent his first four seasons sitting behind an aging franchise quarterback—minus his second season, which saw him benched for an undrafted rookie when he did get to play. Then when that veteran finally retired, the team signed a former first-round pick in free agency and then drafted a quarterback in the first round.
He quickly went from potentially starting, or at least competing fairly to start, to being relegated as the clear number three quarterback. And this was after he signed a one-year incentive-laden extension in 2021 to keep him in Pittsburgh rather than going to free agency. Incentives which, because he never got to play, he never had a shot at hitting.
But there are hundreds of players in the league, perhaps thousands, who have their sour grapes over their circumstances. Most work around them. Rudolph has, even if there were reports that he requested to be traded at one point.
It’s more than understandable that he would not want to return to Pittsburgh to be a third-string quarterback. But what about if the Steelers traded or released Trubisky and the door was wide open for him to resume the backup role? Barring a tantalizing opportunity elsewhere, would that be enough to get him to keep himself rooted here? And would he turn down an offer from the Steelers if it were identical to that which he received elsewhere?