The Pittsburgh Steelers are unlikely to make any blockbuster moves at quarterback, and Kenny Pickett seems like the guy they would like to see win the starting job. But Mason Rudolph’s play at the end of 2023 has led to the team wanting him back for the season.
In an interview with our partners at WPXI, Jenna Harner talked to Rooney about the plans in the quarterback room. And it remains fairly simple — Rooney wants to see Rudolph back, and as they always do, the team will go into 2024 with four quarterbacks on the roster.
“Number one, obviously, we like what we saw for Mason in the last few games of the year,” Rooney said. “And so bringing Mason back would be great. And we’ve had some conversations and we’ll, we’ll see where that goes. But, you know, we’ll, we’ll have some more faces in that room and go to camp with four quarterbacks as we always do.”
The Steelers brought on offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, in part, to Pickett. While that was not the only reason, it seems the team wants to give their first-round pick from 2022 another shot at being the answer to the franchise without the shackles of Matt Canada calling the plays.
But throughout Pickett’s first two seasons in the NFL, the team has not scored many points under his guidance. That, naturally, leads to many questions about where the team goes from here.
“We need to make sure we get the quality play out of the quarterback position that I think we saw, you know, when Mason did what he did at the end of the year. I think we saw what kind of team we can be,” Rooney said.
But what does an actual step forward look like for the Steelers and Pickett? Rooney gave a straightforward answer: points better start showing up on the scoreboard. Without that, there are no true signs of progress in the offense. While giving no concrete answer on the traits that Pickett must show, if he does improve, the points should come anyways.
While Rooney has displayed his affinity for wanting Rudolph to return, that’s a two-way street, and Rudolph may have other chances to earn a job elsewhere during the offseason. The team’s unsettled quarterback position will continue to be a storyline to monitor for the Steelers throughout the 2024 offseason. Still, more than that, Pickett’s development will remain the biggest topic for the team’s future.
And Rooney believes the work that Pickett has put in will allow him to earn that job, or at the very least, gives them confidence that he can do better than what he has shown through two seasons.
“One of the things we saw in his career at Pitt was he got better every year, and he worked hard every year. And we still see that and his makeup now and so, you know, that gives a calm confidence in going forward here,” Rooney said.
Pittsburgh seems committed to Pickett for one more season. Ideally, they want to create competition with Rudolph, and one of the four quarterbacks will be an undrafted free agent. But what will the third quarterback look like, and will it be a veteran signing or a draft pick? That’s the other question that must be answered throughout the entire NFL Draft process.