The 2019 season was the perfect storm for the Steelers when it came to the quarterback position. Just to be clear, by “storm” I mean in a negative, destructive, wet and miserable way. After trading away one of the reserve players less than a week before losing their franchise quarterback for the year, the Steelers were left reeling in a manner they had never seen in the Ben Roethlisberger era.
Remember, when Ben Roethlisberger went on Injured Reserve, there were only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster— Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph. When Josh Dobbs was traded, Devlin Hodges was added to the practice squad. It was the first time in Roethlisberger‘s career the Steelers didn’t have three QBs on the roster, so the timing of the injury could not have been worse.
The other factor which came down to the terrible timing of Ben Roethlisberger’s season ending injury was the policy in place in the XFL. As an alternative professional football league making a comeback after a 20 year hiatus, the league was attempting to not make the same mistakes as the failed AAF the previous season. It was reported the Steelers inquired about two different quarterbacks under contract with the XFL— Landry Jones and Josh Johnson— but were denied the opportunity as the XFL chose to keep their players under contract.
First of all, I must admit it was a smart move on behalf of the XFL. Part of the problem with the AAF the previous year was they allowed players to return to the NFL when called upon only to find teams did not release the players back to them to play during the offseason. Learning from the AAF’s mistake, the XFL decided to keep their quarterbacks in order to potentially produce a better product on the field.
Every Steelers’ fan knows how the 2019 season played out, so there’s no reason to rehash it at this point. But what about the Steelers’ quarterback situation for 2020?
While many may believe the Steelers should be addressing their depth at the position more than what they already have, the Steelers are adamant they are comfortable with their quarterback room. Fans who disagree may fail to see one thing— just because the Steelers aren’t willing to make a move a quarterback now does not mean they wouldn’t be willing to do it should the situation change.
With no players going under contract with the XFL this upcoming season, should the Steelers find themselves in the same situation as 2019 they would have more options available. There is bound to be a veteran quarterback released when teams cut down to their 53-man rosters. Additionally, former NFL MVP Camm Newton is not under contract at this time. While I have gone on record against the Steelers signing Newton now, I also believe it is in his best interest to not sign with any team at this point but rather wait until a better situation becomes available rather than guess which team may suffer an injury at this point.
If the Steelers are still in the process of developing Mason Rudolph at the quarterback position, the best thing they can do for him is to keep him in the back-up role. Should he be demoted to third string, his practice time would be cut from plentiful to almost nonexistent. In order for Rudolph to benefit the most, he needs those reps in practice in order for the team to evaluate their plan with him moving forward. But should the unthinkable occur with another season ending injury at the quarterback position, I would not be surprised at all if a new player is added to the mix to possibly be the starter and keep Rudolph as the back-up.
For those who still feel the Steelers shouldn’t take the chance of a player being available this fall and grab somebody now, just remember this: You can’t do it for every position. If the Steelers sink any remaining money they could scrounge up into suring up the position in case Rothlisberger has a setback, it would be a waste if Big Ben stays on the field the entire season. Additionally, what if the Steelers suffer a crushing injury at another position such as linebacker or safety? Wouldn’t it be in their best interest to keep any funds available for a veteran back up at one of those positions should it be needed?
With the XFL not being around this year, it should help the Steelers if it comes to needing to add to the quarterback position later on this season. As long as there appears to be viable options to sign at a later date, the Steelers don’t need to invest the money now when it may be needed for a different unfortunate circumstance in the future.