The Pittsburgh Steelers obviously believe they have their next franchise quarterback in Kenny Pickett as he enters his second NFL season,. On top of that, it now sounds almost certain that veteran backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky will remain in Pittsburgh at least one more season. Beyond those two quarterbacks, it’s yet to be seen who will be the third string at that position in 2023 with the player holding that job in 2022, veteran Mason Rudolph, scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in two weeks from now.
On Tuesday, Steelers general manager Omar Khan held several media sessions at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and during one them he was asked if he thinks the proverbial ship has sailed when it comes to Rudolph possibly returning in 2023.
“No, not at all,” Khan said. “We had a great relationship. Good conversation with Mason and the options, the door’s still open.”
On the surface, Khan very well could be just saying the right thing when it comes to Rudolph. After all, why say that he unequivocally won’t be back in 2023 with free agency not yet underway? Why slam the door shut right now with Rudolph on the other side of it? What else would we expect Khan to say about Rudolph’s future art this point.
Realistically, however, the only way Rudolph will be back with the Steelers in 2023 is if he agrees to sign a one-year veteran benefit contract, or a four-year player qualifying contract. Both of those kind of contracts come with reduced salary cap charges with the latter putting slightly more money in Rudolph’s pocket.
However, for Rudolph to agree to such a deal with Steelers, it would likely come as a result of him having a very frigid unrestricted free agent reception and one that would include him having zero opportunity to compete for a backup job with another team. After all, if Rudolph were to re-sign with the Steelers, and assuming Trubisky is indeed retained to be the team’s backup, the former third round draft pick out of Oklahoma State would essentially be accepting being a third-stringer again in 2023.
In closing, while I appreciate Khan saying on Tuesday that the door is still open for Rudolph to return in 2023, it’s hard to imagine that ultimately happening based on what all we think we know about the immediate future of Steelers quarterback room as we sit here in late February. I fully expect Rudolph to sign with another team during the offseason and even if it’s for the minimum for his accrued seasons.