There’s been some chatter lately about the Pittsburgh Steelers making a move for an established starting quarterback. After team owner Art Rooney II said that the Steelers were “not closing the door” on trading for a quarterback, reporters like Albert Breer floated the possibility of the Steelers trading for Justin Fields. Rooney then clarified that the Steelers likely weren’t going to make a blockbuster trade, but it’s also unlikely that Pittsburgh is going to make any sort of major splash at the quarterback position.
From a monetary perspective, the only quarterback who could make sense from outside the organization who would fit as a “splashy” signing is Russell Wilson. With the Denver Broncos owing Wilson north of $30 million, he could take a minimum salary contract in free agency. But Wilson probably isn’t even a big enough upgrade to take the Steelers to the next level, and if they sign Wilson, it will spell the end of the Kenny Pickett era. Wilson probably doesn’t have more than two years of acceptable football left, as he’ll turn 36 during next season. The Steelers would essentially have to go all-in to win with Wilson before starting their quarterback search over in a season or two.
Kirk Cousins is a better option talent-wise than Wilson, but he’s also no spring chicken as he’ll be 36 before next season. He’s also likely to command a bigger contract, and it again would just lead to the Steelers having to restart their quarterback search in just a few seasons.
Then, we have the much-discussed Justin Fields option. Fields would take draft capital to acquire, probably a Day 2 selection, and with a fifth-year option for 2025 projected at $21,978,000, he’s not coming cheap if the Steelers want to keep him long-term. The Steelers would also have to tailor their offense around Fields, although he would fit a lot of what Arthur Smith likes to do. But there’s again the question of whether acquiring Fields and spending draft capital to bring him in elevates the Steelers to a higher ceiling than what they can be with Kenny Pickett or Mason Rudolph. Fields has a lot of natural talent, but his production in Chicago hasn’t been anything special.
It’s just much more likely that the Steelers look to bring Rudolph back and have him compete with Pickett. Pickett has had a game and a half with a non-Matt Canada offensive coordinator, and the Steelers will likely want to see if Pickett can raise his game with Smith calling plays. If he can’t, and Rudolph is brought back and is able to legitimately challenge Pickett, then the Steelers should roll with Rudolph and then again evaluate the future of the position after the 2024 season.
The most likely scenario for Pittsburgh at the quarterback position heading into 2024 involves re-signing Rudolph, drafting a quarterback in the middle-to-late rounds, while signing an undrafted free agent or another veteran at the position, someone like Matt Barkley or Kyle Allen to fill out the roster and compete in camp. Rooney said Pittsburgh would have four quarterbacks in camp, per usual.
Relying on Pickett or Rudolph is a risky proposition, but so is bringing in a veteran like Wilson who hasn’t shown much over the past few seasons or Cousins coming off a torn Achilles. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense for Pittsburgh to go outside the organization via free agency or trade for their 2024 starting quarterback, and I would be surprised if they did.