The Steelers QB situation, first of all, is a mess. Let’s establish that right away. Are there any teams in the NFL who would wish for our QB situation? It’s not pretty, and there aren’t any quick fixes or ideal solutions that I can think of. So what are we going to do?
The focus right now is Mason Rudolph. He’s the most recent starter, and because he’s a free agent this year we have to make a decision on how much we want him back. Everyone has a lot of happy memories attached to Rudolph turning the offense around and winning out to end the season, but happy memories don’t win games. Is three good games enough to fully convince you Rudolph is a different guy than he was through his first three seasons? And even if so, did you see over those three games a guy who looked more like Ben Roethlisberger or more like Charlie Batch?
I’m all for bringing back Mason Rudolph back, but let’s establish reasonable expectations for what that’s likely to accomplish. That’s getting a guy who is hopefully the next Geno Smith, which is going to keep us from having a top 10 draft pick and maybe get us to the playoffs but isn’t getting us any closer to winning a Super Bowl, not if he’s going to be our starter. I’d offer Rudolph good backup money, and no guarantees that he’s going to start.
So who could we possibly start instead of Rudolph? You know I’m going to point to the first round pick we have under contract, and some of you are already mad at me for suggesting it. I know Kenny Pickett is unpopular now because we all have a lot of bad memories of the offense stinking with him at QB, but how much of that is his fault? Remember how excited everyone was about potentially unlocking Dwayne Haskins’ potential? Pickett is the same sort of guy, who was utterly wasted by an incompetent offensive coordinator, and is coming off the best game of his career in the first game after Matt Canada was fired. Don’t forget that Broderick Jones’ impact wasn’t felt until late in the season either.
Yes, the Steelers already started Rudolph ahead of Pickett to end the season last year. Rudolph was succeeding and at that point in the season it would’ve been stupid to bench him just to see if Pickett would succeed or fail. We really don’t know what we have in Kenny Pickett yet. Keep in mind, all the garbage people are talking about Pickett right now is the same stuff those same people were saying about Mason Rudolph six months ago. Pickett deserves the chance to start week 1 and show what he can do. Remember, Trevor Lawrence STANK his rookie year because he was in a dysfunctional system. It is very premature to give up on Kenny Pickett. That said, he definitely should be on a short leash and if he’s struggling through the first few games I wouldn't hesitate to hand the job to Rudolph.
What about someone else? Given the level of uncertainty with both Pickett and Rudolph, it makes sense to bring in someone else. Rumors have been swirling with names like Kirk Cousins, Justin Fields, Russell Wilson, and Ryan Tannehill but there’s frankly plenty of uncertainty with each of these due to inconsistency, age, and injury (I’m a little surprised I haven’t heard Jimmy Garoppolo’s name come up again, btw). And even if you could have confidence you were bringing in a real answer at the QB position, is the Steelers roster already close enough to "Super Bowl ready" to justify the expense of bringing in an expensive QB to be the last piece? I don’t think so.
My opinion is that the Steelers should be looking to see what they really have in Pickett next year, with an alternative potential bridge starter acquired in FA waiting in the wings (Rudolph or someone else). And they should approach the draft looking at QB as a position of need, not THE position of need, but doing their due diligence on every QB on the board. If they don’t end up drafting a QB, then we should have the rest of the roster built up where we can afford to address QB as THE position of need in 2025, unless by some chance someone emerges as more than just a placeholder this year.