NFL Owners Approve New Bylaw Allowing Teams To Dress Third QB Without Using Gameday Roster Spot

NFL teams will now be allowed to dress a third quarterback on game days without that third quarterback counting against the 46 active players.

During Monday’s spring league meeting, NFL owners approved a new bylaw allowing teams to dress a third quarterback without burning an active roster spot, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

The bylaw reads that it now permits each club to designate an emergency quarterback who can be activated from its Inactive List if the two quarterbacks on the club’s Active List are injured or disqualified and unable to participate in the game, according to the bylaw document provided by the league. 

The approval of the new bylaw comes just a handful of months after the NFL saw the San Francisco 49ers have to play quarterback Brock Purdy in the NFC Championship Game with a torn tendon in his elbow after backup quarterback Josh Johnson went down with a concussion.

The NFL previously had the “emergency QB” rule proposed in late February following the developments in the NFC Championship Game between the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles.

In 2011, the NFL adopted a 46-man active roster. Previously, the rule was 45 players dressing for games. In exchange for the additional helmet, however, the league removed the right for teams to dress a third quarterback without it counting against the active roster.

That third quarterback was an “emergency” quarterback who could only enter the game if the first two went down with injuries, and could not exit the game (unless himself injured) once inserted. In essence, it gave teams the opportunity to decide what to do with the 46th helmet rather than it being required to go to an emergency quarterback. Virtually all teams elected not to dress the third quarterback.

The approval of the new bylaw by the NFL owners at the spring meeting comes at a perfect time for the Steelers. Pittsburgh recently signed veteran backup quarterback Mason Rudolph to be the third quarterback behind starter Kenny Pickett and backup Mitch Trubisky, who signed a two-year extension last week.

Last season, Rudolph dressed for just one game for the Steelers — the Week 15 win on the road against the Carolina Panthers — as Trubisky’s backup with Pickett unavailable that week due to a concussion. Historically, the Steelers usually chose to dress just two quarterbacks on game day, though they carry three on the 53-man roster throughout the season.

Now, with the latest change to the rules, the Steelers will be able to dress Pickett, Trubisky and Rudolph throughout the 2023 season without Rudolph — as the third QB — counting against the 46-man active roster on game days.

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