Well, it’s happening. Mason Rudolph is on his way back to the Pittsburgh Steelers and plenty of hubbub has already been made about the move in the city. But in reality, why in the world is the move causing so much commotion?
Rudolph’s tenure with the Steelers has ranged from a promising young quarterback to begrudged veteran that was demoted from his QB2 spot after a season there. One thing is true at this time, however. Unlike previous seasons where Rudolph was competing for a backup spot or even last year where he was roped into the starting competition, he has no such opportunity to even move up the depth chart this offseason unless an injury occurs.
Really, the signing has to include that in its lens. Without it, I could understand some of the trepidation about Rudolph being back with the Steelers and what it could mean for the position. However, we are talking about a veteran player who is licked into the QB3 role. He is not going any higher than that on the depth chart. Rudolph is stuck where he is at this point, and by re-signing, he is accepting that fact.
With that in mind, I have to ask, what are the downsides here? Mason Rudolph is a veteran quarterback who knows the system he is walking into right away. Unlike an outside free agent, he does not have to build a rapport with the rest of returning pass catchers on the roster. Pittsburgh has security in knowing what he is as a player and how to tailor that within the system. And lastly, if the Steelers are high enough on Tanner Morgan to make the QB3 job an open competition, then Rudolph will push the undrafted free agent right away.
All of that is good, and Rudolph might not be in his ideal spot as a QB3 when he wants to be a backup or starter, but that’s fine. He may have been disgruntled last year at his demotion, but now he has tested the market and has seen what the rest of the NFL world has to offer. For both sides, this seems like a reconciliation of sorts. There’s nothing wrong with that in the NFL. This is a business, and Rudolph found out what his market was in free agency.
Rudolph isn’t going to be a knock-your-socks-off QB3. If he would have, the Steelers would have made him a higher-priority target or he would have had a backup gig elsewhere. However, as a QB3 who, in general, will not straight-up tank your team with turnovers throughout the game, he is fine. There is a defined floor that Rudolph gives you, and there is quality veteran security there in a doomsday scenario where both Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky get injured.
All in all, this makes the quarterback room a decent one. I think this is a pretty great move for the Steelers to bring back a veteran quarterback as their QB3 with a level of security that few teams have that deep into their depth chart. It’s not like Rudolph will be competing for the world here. He’s going to have his defined role, and he’s more than fine in that role.