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Mason Rudolph’s playoff performance could dictate if Steelers draft QB in 2024

There will be plenty of questions surrounding Pittsburgh’s signal-caller next season...

Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph (2) looks to throw before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.  Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

At this point, you are probably familiar with the incredible run that Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph is currently on. After re-signing with Pittsburgh this offseason on a one-year deal worth roughly $5 million, most fans expected him to hold a clipboard all season, considering he was the third-string quarterback behind Kenny Pickett and Mitchell Trubisky.

That clipboard has turned into the shape of a football, and Rudolph will be starting the most important game for the Steelers — their playoff matchup in Buffalo this Sunday. The Steelers renaissance man is 3-0 as a starter since taking over for the aforementioned Trubisky and has averaged 27 points per game in those contests. Pickett has been cleared to play, but Head Coach Mike Tomlin is riding Rudolph’s hot hand.

The big question is, will they ride his hot hand into next season?

Rudolph will once again be a free agent who has a chance to test the open market. The Steelers will also have a decision to make with Pickett, who will be entering his third year. If Rudolph has a big-time playoff performance, I’d anticipate the Steelers will want to keep him in town. Heck, even if he doesn’t that could remain the case. Pittsburgh has revealed their feelings about Pickett to the world by starting their once-thought-as third-string quarterback over him in the biggest game of the season.

This leads me to my next point; I think the Steelers should and will consider drafting a QB in this April’s 2024 draft if they don’t have enough complete evidence to determine Rudolph is now the guy moving forward.

It doesn’t have to be in the first round, but ultimately adding competition for Pickett, and potentially Rudolph, is the prudent thing to do. There is one projected mid-round selection at quarterback that’s worth a look for the Steelers, however.

South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler has had quite the circuitous journey over his college career. Rattler was the most sought-after recruit in the 2017 high school class and chose Oklahoma over many other prominent schools. In 2020, Rattler’s second year with the Sooners, he threw 28 TDs in just 11 games — and was named national freshman of the year by CBS Sports.

That all came to a screeching halt in 2021 when Rattler was benched (for a guy named Caleb Williams) and struggled to find the end zone just 11 times.

The embattled signal-caller decided to embark on a fresh start and transferred to South Carolina in 2022. It’s safe to say that it paid off. Rattler finished his two years in Columbia ranked No. 3 on the program’s all-time list for single-season passing yards, as he showed the top-tier potential he always possessed. The Gamecocks went 5-7 in 2023, but Rattler had the best season of his career behind a terrible offensive line, finishing with a career-best 3,186 passing yards, 23 combined touchdowns, and just eight interceptions.

So why not take a host on a high-upside play in the mid-rounds, similar to what the Dallas Cowboys did with Dak Prescott when selecting him with the No. 135 pick in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft? Now, Prescott is one of the best quarterbacks in all of football.

Nobody is saying that Rattler is going to be the next Prescott. But when it comes to the Steelers, given their current QB situation... what could it hurt?