It is not a foregone conclusion that the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to seek to trade QB Mason Rudolph ahead of the 2022 NFL season. However, it seems likely that the team will want to have rookie QB Kenny Pickett active on game day and unlikely that Rudolph will want to be a healthy scratch each week. As talk continues to build around trading Rudolph, I haven’t seen much analysis of where that leaves the Steelers. There is excitement around presumed starter Mitch Trubisky and Pickett, and hope for rookie seventh round QB Chris Oladokun, no doubt. But, can the Steelers realistically rely on Trubisky and two rookies as their depth options on the roster? History shows that that would be unwise.
Yes, in 2004 the Steelers had to go to their third-string rookie QB after injuries to Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch, and yes that third stringer ended up being future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger. But that’s not a perfect analogy. Pickett would be the analogous third option in the 2004 scenario, but, in 2022 Oladokun would be the next man up in that same scenario. All the sudden, comparisons to the storied 2019 season with Devlin “Duck” Hodges being the only realistic option seem far more apt. I am excited about the potential of Oladokun, but I am not sure that I am comfortable with him starting in 2022 should injuries sideline Trubisky and Pickett.
While the Steelers chose to roll with only Maddox and Roethlisberger in 2004, with Batch being sidelined for the year due to injury, today’s NFL is very different with COVID-19 policies and different more aggressive styles of QB play affecting week-to-week availability. Especially after being burned by only keeping Roethlisberger and Rudolph in 2019, I can’t foresee the team again choosing to only keep two quarterbacks on the roster.
The solution? The Steelers need to find a Charlie Batch-like figure for their roster. A veteran QB with starting experience, and preferably one who has come to terms with being a back-up option at this point in their career. Let’s take a quick look at the free agent options available, with a forewarning that the options are decidedly less than ideal.
Free Agent Options:
|Name||Last Team Played For||Last Year Played (2+ Starts Only)||Last Season Played Completion %||Last Season Played TDs||Last Season Played Yardage|
|Garrett Gilbert||LV||N/A (1 Start in 2021)||64.5%||0||194|
After this, the only quarterbacks available are names such as Felix Harper and Chris Streveler, who are players that I have legitimately never heard of, and would fit the Hodges mold more-so than the grizzled veteran Batch role. Looking at the options on this list, none make a lot of sense. I can’t see the Steelers wanting to take on the drama of Cam Newton, and signing Mike Glennon would be …well, it’s Mike Glennon, I’ll leave it at that. None of the options are exactly an ideal fit and none would leave the team as deep at the position as they were in 2004.
That all being said, I like AJ McCarron as an option. The former Alabama Crimson Tide standout came into the league with a fair-bit of promise. Going 2-1 as a starter standing in for an injured Andy Dalton in 2015, McCarron averaged a 97.1 QBR.
I’m not saying that he’s the second coming of Fran Tarkenton in a late revival his career being imminent, but his stable presence and veteran acumen may be useful for a still-developing Kenny Pickett. McCarron knows that at this point in his career he’s going to be a back-up, and being at peace with that reality would make him a better alternative than say a still-ambitious Mason Rudolph. The over-9,000 yard passer from Alabama may be just what the Steelers need to settle down a young, unstable QB room that’s leaderless for the first time since 2004. Assuming he wants the role and is still in football shape after an ACL tear last season, the 2014 fifth rounder very well could be.
What’s the other alternative? Waiting for Joe Flacco to get cut? I think not.
What do yinz think? Should the Steelers bring in a veteran QB? Should it be McCarron or do you like another option? Comment below or tweet at me!