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: The Steelers should look to the XFL to find their third quarterback.
Explanation: Pittsburgh has shown a proclivity for scouring the “minor” leagues in years past to fill out their roster, signing multiple players from the AAF, XFL, and USFL, a couple of whom managed to become contributors for at least a short period of time. After not drafting a quarterback, this may be the most appealing route.
As is almost always the case with these leagues, the best quarterbacks in them tend to be former NFL quarterbacks who were decent to solid backup and spot starters. The two best quarterbacks of the XFL’s 2023 season have been A.J. McCarron and Ben DiNucci, both of whom have NFL experience, particularly McCarron.
And he would be my third quarterback this year. He threw 24 touchdowns with only six interceptions, completing 69 percent of his passes. And he has already said that he is open to pursuing another NFL opportunity, even at age 32 and after sitting out the 2022 season.
This won’t be the greatest help for my argument to follow, but there’s a reason why guys like McCarron and DiNucci decided to play in the XFL right now. They aren’t, or were no longer, NFL talents. DiNucci has very little NFL experience, while McCarron hasn’t played a meaningful game in years. And frankly, the talent level of the defensive backs in the XFL is not the same as the wide receivers.
The simplest solution to the Steelers’ QB3 problem would still be to re-sign Mason Rudolph. If he’s still not getting any offers after the draft, then it may well be time for him to swallow his pride and accept his likely role.
Failing that, there are still plenty of other quarterbacks unsigned with more recent NFL experience who would be capable of filling the third quarterback role. And there are still lots of college free agents. The Steelers have signed one and invited at least one more to rookie minicamp. Might as well invite more and see who sticks.