The Pittsburgh Steelers have just one quarterback under contract for the 2024 season with Mason Rudolph a pending free agent following Mitch Trubisky’s release yesterday. 2022 first-round draft pick Kenny Pickett is still on the books for the next two years on a guaranteed deal. But who else will be around him? Ian Rapoport isn’t sure Rudolph will be in that group.
“I think we know that they’re gonna remake that quarterback room. I expect Kenny Pickett to be back, [but] that might be it”, he told KOA Sports yesterday. “Mason Rudolph played well enough to make some money. I do think he’ll make some money. I just don’t know that it’s gonna be in Pittsburgh”.
Rudolph spent most of the past two years on the third string but started the final four games. The sixth-year veteran took advantage of Pickett’s ankle injury and Trubisky’s struggles to climb the depth chart and stay there. The Steelers opted to “ride the hot hand” even after Pickett returned from injury, dressing as Rudolph’s backup.
Still, exactly how much the six-year veteran proved in his four-game starting stretch is fair to question. He faced two teams who ranked near the bottom of the league defensively. In the regular-season finale, he played a Baltimore Ravens team resting starters.
By and large he performed well within the circumstances in front of him. You can’t be a better defense than the one that’s on the field, after all. He also deserves credit for his resilience to pull to within one score after the Steelers fell behind 21-0 to the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card Round.
We can probably safely assume that he will receive offers for more than the veteran minimum, unlike last year. The question is how much value teams, including the Steelers, will place on that four-game sample as predictive tape.
“I think it’s fair to say that the fans are a little restless that they haven’t won in the playoffs”, Rapoport said. “If you’re gonna finally get off there and make that statement of, ‘I’m gonna win in the playoffs’, are you okay going into it with Mason Rudolph and Kenny Pickett? Is that enough, or is it gonna take Ryan Tannehill or Justin Fields or Jimmy Garoppolo or whatever Door B is?”.
For as much as fans may celebrate Rudolph’s recent successes, we also have to entertain a modicum of probability. The odds of him having quietly developed into a Super-Bowl-caliber quarterback on the bench the past few years are low.
In truth, fans may be urged to be careful what they wish for. They may well get Rudolph back in Pittsburgh only to find that they’re booing him by November.
But will he, after all is said and done, return to Pittsburgh? Some continue to indicate that he prefers a change of scenery. But he will need to find a suitor willing to offer him more than Pittsburgh is. The Steelers have already made it clear that they want to bring him back. At what price? We’ll find out in March.