PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers have an aging start quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, who is entering the 2021 season on the final year of his contract.
That provides both some future uncertainty at the position for the first time in a very long time for the Steelers, and a bit of a paradox for the team’s priorities in the 2021 NFL Draft this week.
The Steelers would like to put as competitive as possible of a team around Roethlisberger in 2021 to give him the best chance to win a title in what will likely be his final season in Black and Gold.
That would mean prioritizing other positions of need, like center, cornerback, linebacker, running back and tackle.
But there isn’t a clear heir to Roethlisberger on the team, either. Mason Rudolph generally struggled to grab hold of that role while Roethlisberger was injured in 2019, and while Rudolph played better in his lone appearance in 2020, he’s entering the final season of his rookie contract.
Fellow backup Josh Dobbs is also on a one-year deal, while reclamation project Dwayne Haskins will be a restricted free agent after 2021. Haskins probably has as much upside as any of the group, though his ability to transfer it to the NFL level remains in question after a failed stint as Washington’s starter.
“It’s exciting from a coaching perspective with one of those guys being a 22 year old guy like Dwayne Haskins who was viewed globally as having first-round talent just a short time ago,” Tomlin said. “We’re excited about working with him and seeing what his skill set and hoping him improve is, as well.”
All of that means that if Roethlisberger retires after the 2021, the Steelers could quickly be looking at an empty cupboard next year. That’s left a situation where the Steelers don’t necessarily need a quarterback for the 2021 season, but might want to get a head start on stacking depth for 2022, especially if the team’s brass does not view Rudolph as a viable option.
“If you look at our current depth, obviously we have four NFL veteran quarterbacks on our roster, which I feel great about,” general manager Kevin Colbert said on Monday.
“We also have really three of those four that are in the last year of their so-called deals when you look at it realistically. It’s an unusual group in that we do have four. Can you add a young one? Absolutely. We always have to be on the look for that next guy and try to predict the value of taking that player at that position, because most likely a young quarterback won’t play for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021.
“Again, we’ve got four veteran guys that we’re going to try to sort through. Could you add someone that could be more guaranteed to be here for the future? Absolutely. And that’s our job, to try to value that.”
While Colbert didn’t specifically address the idea of taking a quarterback in the first round, he mentioned that he’s done so in the past, drafting Roethlisberger at No. 11 overall when the team already had incumbent Tommy Maddox and a host of other needs.
“Ben wasn’t a sure pick when we were sitting there at 11 because we had more pressing issues than a quarterback because Tommy Maddox had done some good things for us. It wasn’t like we couldn’t have started the season with Tommy. When Ben was there for us, it would have been a huge mistake not to take him. So we’ll always be open to adding what we believe is the most critical position, but again, we feel good about having four vets to work with at this point.”