The battle for the right to succeed Ben Roethlisberger has been raging since the moment Dwayne Haskins was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Every word scrutinized, every practice rep analyzed, every breath they took was watched closely by Steeler fans. One of the most anticipated roster fights I can remember was set to headline the Steelers return to preseason football.
It was the stuff of legends.
The Steelers downplayed the competition, but they downplay everything, fans knew the future of the franchise was going to be decided in a 4 round bout through the preseason games.
Except it wasn’t real.
Mason Rudolph started the Hall of Fame game, 6/9 for 84 yards, Haskins was less impressive in his first action, 8/13 for 54 yards. But Rudolph got most of those yards on a Chase Claypool catch, wait till Haskins got to throw to the main weapons. . .
Rudolph was efficient against Philly, 8/9 for 77 yards, but then Haskins threw for 161 and a TD on 22 passes, clearly Haskins was now winning the competition and Rudolph was soon to be traded or cut.
But then in game three it’s Rudolph coming in after Ben Roethlisberger left the game, going 13/18 for 138 yards. Haskins again stuck with the third stringers where he went 4/7 for 56 yards.
Maybe the truth will dawn on Steeler QB battle fans, that there really is nothing to see here. The truth is there was never a battle between Rudolph and Haskins, because they are both backup quarterbacks. The Steelers sent them out on the field to execute the offense, get accustomed to the plays and prepare themselves to stand on the sidelines as Ben Roethlisberger’s depth.
Against the Lions Ben Roethlisberger took shots downfield, made plays, and then sat down to watch the backups get their practice time in. Because that is what happened, it’s what has been happening. Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins are practicing to make sure they are ready to fulfill their role as players the Steelers hope never see the field this season in any meaningful moments.
The role of backup QB #1 will be played by the player that has the most familiarity with the team and system, the guy who has actually had to step in and run a game plan prepared for Roethlisberger before. The part of backup QB #2 will be played by the player who is getting time to learn and prepare and grow as a player.
There is no quarterback battle on the Pittsburgh Steelers. There really hasn’t been one. Neither Rudolph or Haskins have really pushed to make plays, neither have taken chances or fought like Rudolph and Landry Jones did in the 2018 preseason when the Steelers ended up cutting Landry Jones. That was a battle, the players knew they had something to play for and they went out and took chances.
This preseason we haven’t seen that, we’ve seen two quarterbacks working inside the offense, getting their practice in to prepare in case they have to play. Neither are at risk of losing their jobs, and Mike Tomlin isn’t interested in having a two dogs, one bone type of battle.
There is good reason for that.
The Steelers signed Mason Rudolph through next season, and Dwayne Haskins is a restricted free agent after this year, they can retain his services without a major investment. There’s no reason to force a resolution now. The two young quarterbacks can take this whole year to work on Matt Canada’s offense, gain familiarity with their team mates and build up to the end of the 2021 season.
Because at the end of the 2021 season, if Ben Roethlisberger decides to retire, they will get their shots, and Steeler Nation will get their quarterback battle. I can’t emphasize that “if” enough. If Ben Roethlisberger plays well in 2021 and decides he isn’t done, then the Rudolph/Haskins battle for the future of the Steelers will not happen, Haskins will likely leave, and life will go on.
The bottom line is the Steelers are comfortable with their backup quarterback situation, and they are fine keeping both of their backups. Their is no need for a battle, so there is no battle.
It’s the disappointing truth that we will have to find a way to live with.