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Ben Roethlisberger’s Status Overshadowing Steelers’ Offseason Decision with Mason Rudolph

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The Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot of work to do to shore up the quarterback position for 2020 and the long run.

Starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is entering the final year of his contract, one that Steelers president Art Rooney II and general manager Kevin Colbert have said will need to be re-negotiated before he can return to the team in order to ameliorate his $41 million salary cap hit for the 2020 season.

Roethlisberger has said his pay for this season is no issue, but the sides have yet to come together to work out a resolution, with only three and a half weeks before the Steelers must be salary cap compliant.

In addition to Roethlisberger’s situation, the Steelers have made another move to add possible depth at the position by signing former Washington first-round draft pick Dwayne Haskins to a future contract. Haskins will come at a cheap salary cap hit for the team in 2020 and, if he pans out, will be able to re-signed at a discount for 2021.

For good reason, Roethlisberger and Haskins have dominated the headlines when it comes to the Steelers quarterback situation so far this offseason. But it’s also an important offseason for backup Mason Rudolph. 
Rudolph is also entering the final season of his contract, and figures to be the Steelers’ starter if the team can’t work out an arrangement with Roethlisberger of if the 38-year-old sufferers an ailment.

Rudolph was drafted in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft as Roethlisberger’s apparent heir, but has yet to really grab hold of that role. In eight games filling in for Roethlisberger in 2019, Rudolph had an 82 passer rating, took 15 sacks, threw nine interceptions and led the Steelers to a 5-3 record. It was a decent performance, but nothing that gave the impression that Rudolph is a franchise quarterback in waiting.

In 2020, he played significant minutes in just one game, against Cleveland in the regular season finale, when he posted an 87.7 passer rating, throwing for 324 yards and two touchdowns while leading the Steelers to a late comeback bid.

“It was very encouraging to see Mason play like we did in a tough situation,” Colbert said on Wednesday. “Cleveland was desperate to win. It was at their home field and we came within two points of beating them. So, I think that was encouraging for us.”

If the Steelers need to rely on Rudolph for more than spot duty in 2021, which version of him will they get? If it’s more of the same Rudolph that was benched for third-stringer Devlin Hodges in 2019, going into the season with him as a pending free agent is likely not an issue.

But if Rudolph does show that he’s grown into a capable NFL quarterback, and they don’t sign him to an extension before the season, they could end up paying a lot to keep Rudolph beyond the 2021 season.

The Steelers don’t renegotiate contracts in-season, a practice that Colbert does not expect to change any time soon, so the Steelers will have to make a decision on Rudolph’s future before they see how (or if) he plays this season.

“Hopefully we get to see Mason take some more steps in whatever role he has or whatever playing time he gets, be it preseason of regular season or whatever,” Colbert said.

The Steelers will likely know whether Rudolph will enter the season as the starter or as a backup in March, when they come to a decision with Roethlisberger. But what Rudolph’s future beyond the 2020 season looks like is still very much up in the air.

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Should Steelers Sign Zach Banner to be Starter in 2021?

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Zach Banner has become a prominent member of the Steelers, but that’s not because he’s had success on the field over the past year. Banner’s success has come off the field by connecting with fans on social media and doing his part to help those in need than he has on a football field. But by no means is that Banner’s fault.

He suffered a season ending torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This injury was especially devastating for the USC product because it occurred on the heels of Banner winning the starting right tackle position following a tough training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor.

Due to Banner’s injury, it was Okorafor who ended up starting 16 games, including the postseason. While Banner kept in good spirits and became his team’s loudest cheerleader on Twitter during games, it was clear he wanted to be on the field and contributing.

Earning a starting spot as a member of the Steelers offensive line was a major career achievement for Banner, but it was one he didn’t get to enjoy. With Banner expected to be ready for a return next season, should the Steelers sign the 27-year-old with the anticipation that he could be a key piece to bolster the offensive line that was missing during the 2020 season?

Do you believe in Zach Banner? Comment below with why or why not.

Do you still believe in Zach Banner?

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Steelers

Zach Banner Announces Self-imposed Social Media Ban Until he Signs New Deal

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Zach Banner is sending a clear message about his priorities ahead of the 2021 NFL season. Banner, who is a free agent and looking for a new deal with the Steelers, tweeted that he is going to stay off social media until he officially signs on the dotted line.

Zach Banner has become a prominent member of the Steelers, but that’s not because he’s had success on the field over the past year. Banner’s success has come off the field by connecting with fans on social media and doing his part to help those in need than he has on a football field. But by no means is that Banner’s fault. He suffered a season ending torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This injury was especially devastating for the USC product because it occurred on the heels of Banner winning the starting right tackle position following a tough training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor.

Due to Banner’s injury, it was Okorafor who ended up starting 16 games, including the postseason. While Banner kept in good spirits and became his team’s loudest cheerleader on Twitter during games, it was clear he wanted to be on the field and contributing.

Earning a starting spot as a member of the Steelers offensive line was a major career achievement for Banner, but it was one he didn’t get to enjoy. Banner now hopes to return to Pittsburgh and be the missing piece the Steelers offensive line desperately needs.

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Steelers

Rooney: Steelers Plan to Return to St. Vincent for 2021 Training Camp

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There is plenty that remains up in the air about the 2021 NFL offseason, but the Pittsburgh Steelers still have plans to resume one of their enduring traditions that was broken by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The Steelers were forced to forgo their trip to the campus of St. Vincent College near Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 2020 due to the NFL’s rules regarding keeping players isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s unclear how much those restrictions will change for the NFL teams this summer, but as things stand as of today, the Steelers are still making plans to return to the Laurel Highlands for the team’s annual training camp this summer.

“As we sit here today, our plan is to have training camp in Latrobe,” team president Art Rooney II said to Steelers.com on Friday. “We still have a ways to go to get there, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that’s going to be able to happen. We’re still hopeful we’re going to have some form of offseason program, and it’s probably not going to start on time but I think it’s important particularly for the young players that we get back to having an offseason program and then a full training camp and preseason games. I think we need to have that to help the young players continue to develop.”

Displaced from their usual bucolic summer home and from UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side due to capacity limitations, the Steelers spent the 2020 training camp and preseason at Heinz Field.

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