With the Steelers’ 2023 offseason underway following a disappointing season that came up just short of reaching the playoffs, it’s time to begin reloading, through the free agency process, through the draft, and perhaps even through trade.
This is now a young team on the offensive side of the ball, though one getting older on defense. Both sides could stand to be supplemented robustly, including in the trenches—either one. Changes have been made to the coaching staff, even if not all of the desired ones, as the roster continues to renew with the weeks ticking by.
These sorts of uncertainties are what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
Topic Statement: Mason Rudolph has a legitimate gripe with how the Steelers handled the quarterback position last year.
Explanation: The Steelers themselves have said that the door is still open for Mason Rudolph to return in 2023. He remains unsigned after a month as a free agent, and there have been no reports of any interest from teams. He has made some passive-aggressive remarks in-season about his opportunities, and a number of beat writers have relayed his dissatisfaction with how last year’s “competition” played out, going so far as to suggest that he is “done” with the Steelers.
Everybody knew as soon as Mitch Trubisky was signed, or at the very least by the time Kenny Pickett was drafted, that Mason Rudolph was never going to start another game in Pittsburgh barring a catastrophic injury situation.
Yet the coaches talked about him as though he had a legitimate chance to win the starting job going into the regular season. It doesn’t appear as though that was the case—moreso, it was for the others to lose the job.
There doesn’t seem to be anything Rudolph could have done to end up the starter as long as the other quarterbacks in the group didn’t fall on their faces. Because of that alone, you could contend that he had a legitimate gripe.
Any legitimacy begins and ends with whether or not Rudolph, first of all, had the opportunity to show for himself, and second, whether or not he performed at a high level with that opportunity. The answer to the first question is yes. The answer to the second question is no.
If Rudolph really wants to take issue with how last year’s competition was run, he should go back and look at his performance and really ask himself if he did anything to put himself in the conversation to be the starter.
The reality is that he got just as many reps, both in training camp and in preseason games, as Trubisky and Pickett did. This was in spite of the fact that he had already been in Pittsburgh for four years and so should ostensibly have needed fewer reps.
They gave them to him anyway even though they had two new quarterbacks to break in and he really didn’t do anything to distinguish himself. He should have looked better just by virtue of being in a familiar environment, yet he didn’t even stand out. At best, he was equal. He accomplished nothing that would have merited a right to start.