As most Pittsburgh fans know, the Steelers currently have only two quarterbacks under contract for 2024. Kenny Pickett will be in the third year of his rookie deal, while Mitch Trubisky’s services currently belong to the Steelers as well. Based on his play this season, many would like to see the Steelers cut Trubisky and free up some salary cap space.
According to Overthecap, the Steelers could designate Trubisky as a post-June 1 cut and gain $5.25 million of 2024 cap space. This move would stick the Steelers with $4.6 million of dead cap, which could be split over the 2024 and 2025 seasons at $2.3 million per year. Such a move would leave the Steelers with Pickett as the only quarterback on the roster. Let’s take a look at a few free agents with Steeler ties who the Steelers could add to fill the empty seats in the quarterbacks' room.
Former Steeler QBs to consider
Of course, the conversation of a Steelers quarterback competition starts with Mason Rudolph. His six years with the Steelers produced very little buzz until the end. Posting three touchdowns and no interceptions while starting the last three regular season games, he showed a consistency in quarterback play that the Steelers had been lacking for years.
Most fans want him back to at least compete with Pickett for the starter job, if not be handed the title based on his play during the three-game win streak that got the Steelers into the playoffs. Rudolph may very well choose to take his skills elsewhere when free agency begins. Signed to be the third quarterback on the roster last year, Rudolph played on a one-year deal at $1.08 million. His play earned the 28-year-old a pay raise, but the dollar amount and the team that signs his checks are yet to be determined.
Former Steelers quarterback Joshua Dobbs was a 2017 draft pick of the Steelers who, like Rudolph, did very little until lately. 12 of his 14 career starts came in 2023, split between the Arizona Cardinals and the Minnesota Vikings. In those outings, Dobbs threw for 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, adding another 421 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. At the age of 28, Dobbs played on a one-year contract worth $1.5 million.
Arthur Smith connections
The new Steeler offensive coordinator was the head coach for the Atlanta Falcons the past three years after spending 10 years in the Tennessee Titan organization where he worked his way up from intern to offensive coordinator. When taking a job with a new franchise, coaches love to bring along veterans who they know well.
Veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill has 11 years of starting experience under his belt, six with the Miami Dolphins and then five in Tennessee. He had a career passer rating of 87.0 before the two seasons he spent in Smith’s offense when he would put up a 117.5 followed by a 106.5. In the three years since Smith left for Atlanta, Tannehill has returned to ratings that average in the high 80s.
Age and ankle injuries have certainly hampered Tannehill’s performance, but a reunion with Smith could provide a late-career spark after starting only 8 games in 2023 and posting just four touchdowns and seven interceptions. Tannehill just finished a four-year deal that paid him $118 million. The combination of his age, health, and recent performance has Tannehill staring at a contract with backup prices.
Marcus Mariota played with Arthur Smith in Tennessee for five seasons, eventually getting benched in the fifth year for the aforementioned Ryan Tannehill. While you may think that the benching would indicate no chance of a Mariota-Smith reunion, they already had one in Atlanta with the Falcons in 2022. Mariota would start the first 13 games, but his 15 touchdowns, nine interceptions, and three fumbles got him benched again. He spent last season backing up Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia on a one-year deal for $5 million.
Andy Weidl (Steelers’ assistant GM) connections
If you don’t think that having an assistant general manager come in from another franchise would influence future Steelers, consider that the 53-man roster to start the 2023 season included four players who signed their rookie deal with the Philadelphia Eagles when Andy Weidl was in that front office. Isaac Seumalo, Nate Herbig, Chandon Sullivan, and Elijah Riley were all singing Fly Eagles Fly before they relocated to western Pennsylvania.
Before joining the Steelers as assistant general manager, Andy Weidl was the assistant director of player personnel for the Philadelphia Eagles when they used the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to select Carson Wentz. The often-injured Wentz most recently was a Los Angeles Ram for half of last season.
Wentz wouldn’t attempt a single pass until starting in Week 18 while Matthew Stafford rested up for the playoffs. In that game, Wentz would throw 24 times, totaling 163 passing yards, two touchdowns and an interception — a mixed bag for which the Rams got the prorated portion of a one-year, $1.165 million contract.
Gardner Minshew would be signed as a free agent by the Eagles in 2021 after Weidl had been promoted to vice president of player personnel. Minshew played last year for the Indianapolis Colts on a one-year, $3.5 million contract that paid him an additional $2 million in playing-time incentives. He would start 13 games in 2023, including the final 12 of the year following Anthony Richardson’s season-ending shoulder surgery, posting 15 touchdowns, nine interceptions and five fumbles. Richardson is expected to be back in time for training camp, potentially putting Minshew on the move to a new home.
We might as well scrape all the way to the bottom of the barrel since we are on the subject of quarterbacks with connections to the Steelers. Nate Sudfeld was signed to the Eagles practice squad in 2017 after spending his rookie year as an inactive third-string quarterback in Washington. He spent last year on the Lions injured reserved list with an ACL suffered in August. In six years as a pro, he has thrown 37 passes including one touchdown and an interception. Sudfeld was on a one-year, $1.6 million deal.
Don’t be surprised if one of these names wears black and gold when training camp begins in July. Like with many businesses, it’s not just how good you are that matters, but also who you know.
Are there any other veteran quarterbacks you hope the Steelers will consider bringing in for competition with Kenny Pickett in 2023? Let us know in the comments!