The Pittsburgh Steelers and the team’s fans got their first glimpse of a non-Ben Roethlisberger led offense in 2021 this past Sunday. Mason Rudolph was far from impressive throughout the game that ended in a 16-16 tie to the winless Detroit Lions. While there were a plethora of mistakes made during the game, criticism immediately was directed at Rudolph and an offense that looked out on sync and unprepared. This, however, was expected with Roethlisberger abruptly being ruled out on Saturday evening due to COVID-19 protocols. With that said, something tells me Rudolph’s performance would have been no different if he had prepared two weeks for that start.
Rudolph is the only quarterback on the roster whose contract does not end after this season and that begs the question: What the heck is the plan for Mike Tomlin‘s team at the quarterback position? Assuming Roethlisberger retires after this season, the answer certainly is not Joshua Dobbs or recently signed James Morgan. That leaves Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins, assuming Haskins re-signs at season’s end. Let’s take a look at the options for Tomlin and Kevin Colbert (supposing Colbert signs his annual one-year contract extension) if Roethlisberger does retire:
Add a Quarterback Through Free Agency
The 2022 free agent draft class has names such as Jacoby Brissett, Marcus Mariota, Mitch Trubisky, and Teddy Bridgewater, among others. While they wouldn’t be considered a big splash (like some of the names we’ll take a look at below), they’re certainly a possibility. These quarterbacks provide depth and experience allowing for some competition between Rudolph and whoever the third quarterback might be. Any option in this market would be a cheap one which is most likely what the Steelers are more inclined to do.
Draft Roethlisberger’s Successor in 2022
While the 2022 quarterback class isn’t overwhelmingly deep, Matt Corral (Ole Miss), Sam Howell (North Carolina), Carson Strong (Nevada), Malik Willis (Liberty) and Kenny Picket (Pittsburgh) are all prospects who have potential upsides. The guy that the Steelers like however, may not be on the board for their first round selection, and there are other needs to fill. Nonetheless, there are not many competitive NFL teams that do not have a talented, proven and poised quarterback. There are not many teams that draft as well as the Steelers and they have had scouts in attendance to watch several collegiate quarterbacks play this year. If the team goes this route, we can still expect it to be a training camp and preseason battle between Rudolph and the draftee up until Week 1.
Let Rudolph and Haskins Battle it Out
If the Steelers decide to re-sign Haskins, it may be the most Pittsburgh Steeler thing of them all to give an opportunity to these two quarterbacks to battle for the starting spot. This is probably the least favorite option for Steelers fans everywhere given Rudolph’s inability to prove himself with multiple opportunities the last couple years and Haskins’ lack of experience. But when have the Steelers listened to what the fans cared about when it came to personnel? Maybe the front office is okay with a 5-12 season in order to draft the future in 2023. There can’t be people in the organization that truly think Rudolph is the answer, right? And while Haskins has a high ceiling with his talent, who even knows if he will even be in Pittsburgh next year.
Make an Offseason Splash
The sexy names are Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, but the team is not necessarily known for big trade splashes in the offseason. This comes along with the notion that Rodgers and Wilson are unhappy with their current teams and situations. Many reports have indicated that Tomlin wants to have a veteran quarterback next year and not build the position’s depth through the draft. But reports are reports. Not to mention the asking price for what either of the Pro Bowl quarterbacks would be in 2022. It’s fun to imagine going from one Hall of Fame quarterback to another, but it’s unlikely. It will be interesting to see how Rodgers season ends in Green Bay and if he will want to go elsewhere. The opportunity could present itself, however. Will the Steelers make a call?
There could even be a mixture of everything above. Trade for Wilson, draft a prospect late and have Rudolph sit in the backup role. Sign a free agent, draft a prospect and have one big quarterback battle. There are many options, but if there is one thing most people agree with: there is not an answer or plan right now and that is truly worrisome.
What do you want to see the Steelers do at the quarterback position if Roethlisberger retires? Let us know in the comments below!