After some initial drama, the Steelers have settled on Kenny Pickett as their backup and Mason Rudolph as the third-string quarterback, which has led to speculation that the team may trade the veteran backup or that he may request a trade.
For this week’s Steelers Now debate, Alan Saunders and Cale Berger square off on whether the team should trade Rudolph or hang on to him.
ALAN SAUNDERS, ARGUING NO
The Pittsburgh Steelers certainly remember what happened in 2019. Starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending elbow injury, backup Mason Rudolph was concussed and then suffered another injury later in the season, and third-string quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges ended up playing six games.
So the Steelers know very well the value of backup and even third-string quarterbacks. And while that season might seem like an outlier, the Steelers also used three quarterbacks in each of their last two Super Bowl seasons. Roethlisberger, Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch all started games in 2005. Roethlisberger, Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich all made starts in 2008.
It’s not as if by keeping Rudolph around to be the team’s third-string quarterback this season, the Steelers would be preparing for some unheard of, once-in-a-million contingency. Third-string quarterbacks have played a good bit throughout the teams history.
Furthermore, since 2004, there has been basically a zero percent chance of the Steelers preferred starting quarterback ever being benched. No matter what Roethlisberger did, he was never going to lose his place in the pecking order.
Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett aren’t going to get that kind of leash. If one or both of them doesn’t perform the way they’re expected to, the Steelers could easily make an in-season move to advance Rudolph ahead of them in the depth chart.
Rudolph has been a good soldier for the Steelers through some trying times that were not his fault. If he wants a trade, that’s a different thing. The Steelers should probably acknowledge that request. Rudolph chose not to say publicly whether he has or has not requested a trade when asked on Wednesday.
The Steelers could also just get blown away by a trade offer. It will not take very many quarterback injuries around the NFL before Rudolph starts looking like a more attractive option than many teams currently possess on their roster.
But there’s no reason to trade him just to trade him. They are not going to get a significant impact in return for Rudolph. His 2022 salary is not obtrusive, especially when you consider the total they’re paying the three quarterbacks. There’s also a chance that the Steelers could gain a compensatory pick if Rudolph leaves through free agency next off-season.
It’s clear at this point that Rudolph is not and will not ever be the Steelers’ starting quarterback of the future, but he can still bring value to the team while he’s on the roster.
CALE BERGER, ARGUING YES
The Pittsburgh Steelers have finally resolved their quarterback competition heading into Sunday’s season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, but one final thread still remains.
With Mitch Trubisky having earned the starting job and Kenny Pickett slotting in as the No. 2, Pittsburgh now debates whether or not they should hang on to or trade Mason Rudolph.
The decision should not be much of a debate at all. The Steelers should absolutely trade Rudolph the first chance they get. Pittsburgh has reportedly received trade inquiries regarding Rudolph already, but has been reluctant to deal the former third-round pick.
What benefit does keeping Mason Rudolph on this roster provide the Pittsburgh Steelers this season other than being available in an extreme, dire hypothetical where Trubisky and Pickett go down?
Trubisky is the starter. Pickett is the future. Rudolph will with all likelihood be playing elsewhere in 2023 anyways.
As a result, the team should deal him now to not only free up his $3 million salary, but also get an asset in return for Rudolph instead of allowing him to walk away for nothing next offseason.
That $3 million could go a long way at addressing the Steelers’ remaining roster deficiencies, such as pursuing a legitimate left tackle to bolster their struggling offensive line, for example. Regardless of the value of the asset they’ll get in return, it will still be one more than they had in their possession prior to dealing Rudolph or after he leaves as a free agent.
In addition to robbing the Steelers of an additional asset, keeping Rudolph as their third quarterback does not provide them much value from a scouting perspective either. Pittsburgh’s schedule has the team set to face Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts this season. Rudolph’s skillset does not at all allow him to mimic or replicate what those athletic freaks are capable of. Not only would it be a disservice to Rudolph burying him as the scout team quarterback, but it would not exactly be providing the defense an adequate scout either.
Have the odds been stacked against Rudolph? Maybe. Did the Steelers do him any favors slapping a first-round grade on him? Absolutely not. Has he gotten opportunities to prove himself worthy of being the Steelers’ next starting quarterback? Plenty.
No one is saying Rudolph hasn’t dealt with adversity and said the right things each and every step of the way over his five years in Pittsburgh. He definitely has. But with his time in Pittsburgh nearing a close, the best option for the Steelers is still to deal Rudolph and be content with whatever return they get.
YOU PICK THE WINNER
Who made the better argument?
- Alan Saunders, arguing no (61%, 20 Votes)
- Cale Berger, arguing yes (39%, 13 Votes)
Total Voters: 33
Alan Saunders defeated Nick Farabaugh in our last debate, in arguing that Rudolph did not get a fair chance to win the Steelers’ starting quarterback competition.