Though Mason Rudolph’s return to the Pittsburgh Steelers was a surprise, it’s far more likely he signed his one-year contract to again by the team’s third-string quarterback. Not push Mitch Trubisky off the roster. While circumstances in the quarterback room are different than they were this time a year ago, the Week One order should be the way Week 18 ended: Kenny Pickett starting, Trubisky as the #2, Rudolph as the #3.
That’s how Bob Labriola views it, writing in his Thursday Asked and Answered column that Rudolph poses little threat to Trubisky’s place and role on the roster. Here’s his answer when asked by one reader if he thought Trubisky’s job was “in jeopardy.”
“I do not think that at all. My feeling is that fans should remember what General Manager Omar Khan said earlier in the offseason when he was asked about Trubisky’s role as the team’s No. 2 quarterback. Khan said the Steelers would be interested in having Trubisky in that role ‘beyond the 2023 season.'”
And that’s an agreeable statement. While Rudolph’s return is noteworthy, in the 10 seconds before we knew about his signing, Trubisky’s spot as the team’s #2 was cemented. Rudolph signing a (presumably) cheap one-year deal after sitting in free agency for months with an icy market probably isn’t going to change that.
Last year, Pittsburgh valued its quarterback depth top to bottom and having two veterans in Trubisky and Rudolph. They likely could’ve traded Rudolph for a Day Three pick last summer but chose to hold onto him, knowing full well he would spend the year inactive barring any injuries. The circumstances this year are a bit different — Pickett the starter, Trubisky the backup — but the Steelers want to preserve their QB depth and experience. So many teams last season got into trouble turning to third-string options that weren’t ready to play. Pittsburgh’s a rare team to have three quarterbacks with so many NFL starts under their belts. Pickett has 12, Trubisky 55, and Rudolph 10.
Post-Rudolph signing, some have speculated about Trubisky’s future. There’s no question he’s an expensive backup with an $8 million base salary contracted to him when he signed under starting pretenses last offseason. But the price of the QB room as a whole is what matters more than a singular contract and with Pickett on his rookie deal and Rudolph’s deal almost certainly hardly moving the cap needle, the Steelers can afford to pay Trubisky his large salary.
What’s more interesting is what happens next year. Trubisky and (assuming it’s a one-year deal) Rudolph will be free agents. It feels like Trubisky will walk but hey, I said the same about Rudolph. Perhaps Rudolph would want to re-sign if promised the #2 role. Or maybe Trubisky enjoys Pittsburgh, accepts life as a backup – he won’t have starter-level interest elsewhere – and re-ups on a cheaper contract. That’s a more entertaining discussion than thinking Trubisky will be shoved off the roster later this summer.