PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers have confidence in Kenny Pickett as the starter in 2024 but will challenge him with competition. On Thursday, Mike Tomlin revealed that the team hopes that the competition can be Mason Rudolph, but there is an uncertain path given Rudolph’s free agent status.
While the Steelers would like to see Rudolph back on the team, free agency is a two-way street that requires both parties to be interested in one another.
“It is,” Tomlin said of the team’s intentions to re-sign Rudolph. “But he is a free agent, and it is free agency, and so we’ll see where that leads us.”
After their loss to the Buffalo Bills, Mason Rudolph said he is unsure what his future with the team holds. Free agency is something that Rudolph experienced before, but this time around, it is likely to be largely different.
It was a surprise season for Rudolph, who entered as the team’s No. 3 quarterback, only to take the reins after Kenny Pickett was injured and Mitch Trubisky was ineffective.
For a player that was a free agent last offseason, only to get no offers and return as the Steelers’ No. 3, the strong end of season play has likely opened up some doors to his continued employment in the NFL — and at a higher level than the veteran-minimum contract he played on in 2023.
“I love the Pittsburgh Steelers,” he said. “They’ve been my only home for six years. We’ll see what happens. Like I said, it’s not really my decision. A lot of it is outside of my control. We’ll see what happens.”
Coming off the bench cold is tough, but Rudolph’s play inspired confidence in him from the staff. Tomlin hopes they can get Rudolph back due to his level of play. He played like a fringe starting quarterback in the NFL, and that was a higher level of play than Pittsburgh had received throughout the entire season.
“I don’t think any of us can deny what we’ve seen over the last month or so,” Tomlin said. “I cannot underscore how impressive it is to be ready. Forget performance man, to be ready to deliver. And he was, and that preparedness showed. So certainly we are less speculative about his capabilities because there’s evidence of it.”
The Steelers have moves to make, but their offensive coordinator hire will determine how well they can concoct all of these ideas and meld them together at quarterback. Someone with quarterback guru experience, or at least experience dealing with young quarterbacks, is a big key to all of this. To retain Rudolph, it seems he would need assurances that he could compete for the starting job.
When asked if the quarterback for 2024 was on the roster currently, Tomlin did answer with a ‘yes’, and that gives a vote of confidence in Pickett’s corner. But Rudolph’s play would have to earn him consideration for that spot, but it all depends as much on schematic fit as play, too.