Though the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ focus is currently on their playoff match-up against the 2nd-seed Kansas City Chiefs, the elephant in the room remains in the Steelers locker room and front office: who will replace Ben Roethlisberger next season?
Since being drafted in 2004, “Big Ben” has ruled both Pittsburgh and the AFC North, winning eight division titles and two Super Bowls during his time with the Steelers. At age 39, all signs point to Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement following the Steelers’ current playoff run. This will bring many new challenges for the Steelers front office and coaching staff, who have not needed to find a new quarterback since 2004 (with the exception of the 2019 season as Roethlisberger was out for most of the year due to an elbow injury).
Here are three potential quarterback options the Steelers have for 2022-2023:
Dwayne Haskins / Mason Rudolph
Though most Steelers fans will resent the idea of handing the offense over to one of these two, both quarterbacks could develop into solid bridge quarterbacks while the Steelers search for their full-time solution. Both Rudolph and Haskins have starting experience on their resume, and with Najee Harris in the backfield, they could easily manage games while the front office evaluates replacement options.
Neither quarterback has a stellar past as a starter. Haskins saw the field in 16 games in Washington throughout the 2019 and 2020 seasons, completing 60.1% of his passes for 2,804 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. Haskins did, however, record decent numbers in the 2021 preseason, yet could not climb higher than third-string on the Steelers depth chart this year.
Steelers fans are already familiar with another possible quarterback option, Mason Rudolph. Rudolph has seen action in 17 games during his career with the Steelers, making numerous starts and posting wildly average statistics. Rudolph has completed 61.5% of his passes for 2,366 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. Most recently, Rudolph saw the field on November 14th in the Steelers’ 16-16 tie with the Detroit Lions. Against the Lions, Rudolph threw the ball 50 times, completing 30 attempts for 242 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
On January 10th, Bleacher Report published a list of potential trades we could see before 2023. The first option on that list was a mock trade which saw the Steelers give up a 2023 fourth-round draft pick in exchange for quarterback Gardner Minshew from the Philadelphia Eagles. Minshew, who debuted in 2019, quickly became a fan favorite in Jacksonville and earned a starting role in what could be the NFL’s worst franchise. Minshew would play in 14 of the Jaguars’ 16 games in 2019, throwing for 3,271 yards, 21 touchdowns, and six interceptions. In 2020, Minshew would only see the field in nine of the Jaguars’ games before being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles following the Jaguars’ first overall pick of Trevor Lawrence in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Minshew has seen the field four times for the Eagles this season, posting a 63.2% completion percentage, four touchdowns, and one interception, along with a 93.9 passer rating. Minshew, without a doubt, could be a standout player in the right environment but is yet to get his chance with a successful organization around him. Trading for Minshew feels like a low-risk, high-reward situation for the Steelers and one that I believe would benefit the franchise heading into next season.
The NFL Draft
As the Steelers conclude their 2021 regular season, they finish with a record of 9-7-1, good enough for the 7th seed in the NFL playoffs and the 20th pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. For the Steelers, drafting a quarterback should be the last thing on the front office’s mind. The 2022 draft does not carry much talent at the quarterback position, and more than anything, Pittsburgh needs to start upgrading their offensive line, which will likely start with their first-round draft pick.
If, by chance, the Steelers do decide to trade up and take Ben Roethlisberger’s replacement, here are two possible quarterbacks that could be on the Steelers’ radar:
Matt Coral, Ole Miss
Most mock drafts have Matt Coral, the electric quarterback who led the Ole Miss Rebels to a 10-2 record and a Sugar Bowl appearance, going in the top 10. Still, if the deal was sweet enough, there is no reason that Pittsburgh couldn’t trade up into the top 10 and pick Coral. During his senior season with Ole Miss under head coach Lane Kiffen, Coral threw for 3,349 yards, 20 touchdowns, and five interceptions. Being a dual-threat quarterback, Coral also rushed for 614 yards and 11 touchdowns before rolling his ankle and missing most of the Rebels’ 21-7 loss to Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.
Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
Kenny Pickett finished his senior season at Pitt with an invitation to New York, finishing third in Heisman voting. Pickett led his team to an 11-2 record, a conference title and a Peach Bowl appearance. He was one of college football’s most significant storylines this season. Most mock drafts have Pickett going later in the first round, so hypothetically the Steelers would not need to trade up to draft him. In 2021 Pickett threw for 4,319 yards, 42 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions while completing 67.2% of his passes. After attending Pitt, Kenny Pickett is already familiar with Pittsburgh’s football culture. He could see the field immediately if the Steelers decide to use their first-round pick to take him.
Replacing Ben Roethlisberger is a near-impossible task for the Steelers. Roethlisberger leads the Steelers in nearly every passing category and has won his franchise two Super Bowl rings and numerous other accolades. The fact of the matter is that nothing lasts forever, including Big Ben, yet the question remains: who will replace the Steelers’ legendary quarterback? Click to comment below!