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Steelers 2024 Free Agent Quarterback Big Board



Pittsburgh Steelers Russell Wilson
Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) before an NFL football game in Empower Field at Mile High Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

In just five days, the Pittsburgh Steelers and every other NFL team will begin talking to the free agents in advance of the start of the new league year on March 13, and while the Steelers will certainly be talking to players at several positions of need, the big one is at quarterback, where general manager Omar Khan and head coach Mike Tomlin have promised competition for starter Kenny Pickett, who is currently lone quarterback on Pittsburgh’s active roster.

Who are the options, and what’s the latest with each of them? Let’s break them down.

RUSSELL WILSON, DENVER BRONCOS, 5-foot-11, 215 pounds, 35 years old


Russell Wilson Had Long Meeting with Steelers, No Deal So Far

Why Raiders, Not Steelers Make Most Sense for Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson Met with New York Giants Before Steelers

Russell Wilson on His Way to Pittsburgh to Meet Steelers

Broncos Legend Blasts Russell Wilson: “What I Saw Was Garbage’

Report: Steelers View Russell Wilson as Backup to Kenny Pickett

Rich Eisen: No Guarantee Russell Wilson is Steelers Starter if He Signs

Sources: Russell Wilson Denver Drama Overblown: ‘Great in the Locker Room’

Steelers to Meet with Russell Wilson Before Start of Free Agency

Broncos Set to Release QB Russell Wilson

Steelers Not Interested in Signing Russell Wilson

Ex-Steelers LB Thinks Russell Wilson is Bad Fit for Pittsburgh

Russell Wilson Could Take League-Minimum Contract

Contract Status: Expected to be released. The Broncos will owe a $39 million guarantee to Wilson, and he can sign wherever for whatever he wants and still get that amount of money.

Previous Contract, Expected Demands: Wilson signed a five-year, $242 million contact with Denver in 2022 after being traded for a haul from Seattle. The contract had an average annual value of $48.5 million. It’s unclear what salary or what kind of contract or opportunity Wilson might be looking for.,

2023 Season: Wilson started 15 games for the Broncos, completing 297 of 447 passes (66.4%) for 3,070 yards, 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions for a 98.0 passer rating and a 6.04 adjusted net yards per attempt.

Career Summary: A third-round pick in 2012 due to being undersized, Wilson became the greatest quarterback in Seattle Seahawks history, winning the franchise’s first Super Bowl and appearing in another. A nine-time Pro Bowler, he led the NFL in passer rating in 2015 and touchdowns in 2017. Off the field, he has won the Bart Start Award and Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.

Why It’s a Good Idea: Statistically, Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks available on the market. Because of Denver is sending such a heaping pile of cash his way, he may not have the same contract demands as some of the other free agents.

Wilson would be an immediate upgrade over Kenny Pickett, and could take a team that made the playoffs with below-average quarterback performance deep into the postseason this season. With president Art Rooney II talking about urgency, and the years dwindling for All-Pro defensive tackle and heart of the team Cam Heyward, Wilson probably represents the Steelers’ best chance to win a Super Bowl in 2024.

Why It’s a Bad Idea: Wilson will have lots of options on the free agent market, and many teams will either have a better opportunity to win right away, or have more money to offer, or both.

The Steelers have publicly committed to Pickett getting another shot to start, and Wilson likely will not sign somewhere where he will not be assured of a starting job. After generally being a popular figure during most of his time in Seattle, his discontent over the trajectory of the franchise forced and exit and there was plenty of drama during his time with the Broncos. It’s not clear whether Wilson would be a good locker room fit.

He is also 35 years old and while he bounced back in 2023 after a dreadful 2022, it’s clear his best days are behind him.

Pittsburgh Steelers Chicago Bears Justin Fields

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) passes during an NFL football game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)

Justin Fields, CHICAGO BEARS, 6-foot-3, 227 pounds, 24 years old


Patience, Cheap Market Could Help Steelers Land Justin Fields

Ex-NFL HC Tabs Steelers as Strong Landing Spot for Justin Fields

Justin Fields Trade Timeline Updated

Steelers Might be Left as Default Front-Runner for Justin Fields

Steelers Not ‘Actively’ Seeking Justin Fields Trade

Adam Schefter Confirms Steelers Have Interest in Justin Fields

Contract Status: Expected to be traded with the growing suspicion that the Bears will select Caleb Williams with the first overall pick of the NFL Draft.

Previous Contract, Expected Demands: Fields is entering the fourth year of his rookie contract and is set to cost just over $6 million against the cap in 2024. The decision the Steelers, or any other interested team, will have to make when trading for Fields is his fifth-year option for the 2025 season which is $23.3 million.

2023 Season: In 2023, Fields threw 370 times, completing 227 passes (61.4%) for 2,562 yards and 16 touchdowns. In addition, he threw nine interceptions and maintained an 86.3 passer rating and a 5.29 adjusted net yards per attempt. His passing stats were a step up from his 2022 campaign but his rushing stats took a bit of a drop off. This past season, Fields rushed 124 times for 657 yards and four touchdowns.

Career Summary: The Bears selected Fields with the 11th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft and has appeared in 40 games for the franchise since. In 2022, Fields finished ninth in the NFL AP MVP voting after having one of the best rushing seasons by a quarterback ever. During that 2022 season, Fields rushed 160 times for 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns in addition to what he accomplished as a passer.

While Fields has only won 10 of his 38 starts with the Bears, his legs have placed him on the NFL record books. Fields owns the record for most rushing yards in a game by a quarterback with 178 yards. In addition, Fields is the only quarterback in the Super Bowl era with multiple 60 yard rushing touchdowns.

Why It’s a Good Idea: Fields is only 24 years old, which is a year younger than Pickett and has arguably accomplished more than Pickett during their time in the NFL. Fields’ ceiling is perceived to be a lot higher than Pickett’s and with better coaching, the Steelers offense could take a huge step forward with Fields at the helm.

Why It’s a Bad Idea: While Fields is younger than Pickett and has better stats, the only stat that matters at the end of the day is wins and Pickett clears Fields in that regard. In 38 career starts, Fields has only won 10 games while Pickett has led the Steelers to 14 victories in his first 24 NFL starts.

With Pickett, the Steelers get another year of leeway in regard to a fifth-year option and do not have to commit to an unproven quarterback this offseason like they would have to if they were to trade for Fields.

Pittsburgh Steelers Tennessee Titans Ryan Tannehill

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill in a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec,. 19, 2021. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Ryan Tannehill, TENNESSEE TITANS, 6-foot-4, 217 pounds, 35 years old

Latest: Steelers Projected to Land Ryan Tannehill, How Much Would Ryan Tannehill Contract Cost Steelers?, Pros and Cons to Steelers Signing Ryan Tannehill, ‘Expectation’ is Steelers Will Explore Landing Ryan Tannehill

Contract Status: Free agent in 2024.

Previous Contract, Expected Demands: Tannehill signed a four year, $118 million contract with the Tennessee Titans on March 15, 2020. The next projected contract for Tannehill is in the range of $5 million to $15 million per season.

2023 Season: In 2023, Tannehill appeared in 10 games for the Titans while starting eight of those games. In his three games after returning from injury late in 2023, he posted a 92.8 passer rating, 6.71 adjusted yards per attempt, and 70% completion percentage. In total, Tannehill completed 149 of 230 passes (64.8%) for 1,616 yards, four touchdowns, and seven interceptions.

Career Summary: After being selected eighth overall in the 2012 NFL Draft by Miami, Tannehill spent seven seasons as the Dolphins quarterback. After inconsistent play, the Dolphins traded Tannehill to Tennessee. Following the trade, Tannehill was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career and won the 2019 NFL Comeback Player of the Year after guiding the Titans to the AFC Championship game. In addition, Tannehill led the league in yards per attempt (9.6) and passer rating (117.5) in the 2019 season.

Why It’s a Good Idea: Even at 35 years old, Tannehill can still throw the ball as evident with his final three games of 2023. His 6.71 adjusted yards per attempt and 70% completion percentage over that three game span is better than Pickett’s averages. Tannehill’s breakout 2019 season came with Arthur Smith as his offensive coordinator which means if he were to sign with the Steelers, he’d be reunited with his former coach.

Why It’s a Bad Idea: While he can still play at 35 years old, Tannehill is not the premier player that would push the Steelers over the top. His 2019 season was aided by a phenomenal season by Derrick Henry and his two postseason victories both came on the back of Henry. In those two victories, Tannehill joined Terry Bradshaw as the only quarterback in Super Bowl era to win consecutive playoff games while throwing one or more touchdowns and under 100 passing yards.

Steelers Mason Rudolph

Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph throwing a pass against the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Mason Rudolph, PITTSBURGH STEELERS, 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, 28 years old

Latest: How Expensive Will Mason Rudolph’s Contract Be? Mike Florio Think Steelers are Committed to Pickett vs. Rudolph, Steelers Hit Snag in Potential Mason Rudolph Return, Mason Rudolph Camp Expects Opportunities Elsewhere

Contract Status: Free agent in 2024.

Previous Contract, Expected Demands: Prior to the 2023 season, Rudolph re-signed with the Steelers with a one-year, $1.08 million extension. While Rudolph will draw interest in free agency, it is uncertain what his next contract will look like.

2023 Season: Rudolph entered the season as the Steelers third-string quarterback. After Pickett suffered an injury, Trubisky replaced him but went 0-3 as the interim starter. With the season slipping away, the Steelers turned towards Rudolph and he helped the team win the final three regular season games. During the regular season, Rudolph completed 55 of 74 passing attempts (74.3%) for 719 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Rudolph started the Wild Card game against the Bills and threw for 229 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the season-ending loss.

Career Summary: The Steelers selected Rudolph in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft to be a long-term solution for after Ben Roethlisberger retired. As Roethlisberger’s career extended further than the team may have thought, Rudolph did not pan out to be the starter post-Ben. In Rudolph’s first batch of starts, he played inconsistently and was replaced by Devlin Hodges.

In Rudolph’s 13 career starts, he completed 291 of his 458 passing attempts (63.5) for 3,085 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions.

Why It’s a Good Idea: Keeping Rudolph with the Steelers would give the team a known and homegrown product to push Pickett in the summer. While he would have to agree to at least entertain a preseason position battle, retaining Rudolph would give the Steelers a quality backup and one that could step up and start games if needed in 2024.

Why It’s a Bad Idea: After Rudolph essentially took Pickett’s starting job to close the 2023 season, multiple reports stated that the Steelers are committed to Pickett as the starting quarterback for the 2024 season. If the Steelers were to retain Rudolph, it may leave a bad impression on Pickett who is entering the most critical season of his young career.

In addition, if the Steelers were to flip on their stance and tell Rudolph that if he returns that he can be the starter, it begs the questions of how much better can Rudolph get at this point in his career and can he beat the elites at some point in the near future?

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Kirk Cousins

Kirk Cousins, MINNESOTA VIKINGS, 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, 35 years old

Latest: Steelers Won’t Target Kirk Cousins in Free Agency, Vikings Confident They Can Re-Sign Kirk Cousins, Kirk Cousins’ Camp ‘Keeping an Eye’ on Steelers, Rod Woodson Wants Steelers to Land Kirk Cousins

Contract Status: Contract with the Vikings will void on March 12, 2024, which will make him a free agent.

Previous Contract, Expected Demands: Cousins re-upped with the Vikings last offseason when he signed a one-year, $35 million extension. Recent reports indicated that Cousins is looking for a two-year, $90 million contract this offseason.

2023 Season: Cousins’ 2023 season was cut short after he suffered a torn achilles in the Vikings’ Week 8 victory against the Green Bay Packers. While the Vikings sat at 4-4 in the eight games that Cousins started in 2023, his stats were on track to be some of the best of his career.

In eight games, Cousins completed 216 of 311 (69.5%) of his passes for 2,331 yards, 18 touchdowns, and five interceptions for a career-high 103.8 passer rating and a 7.18 adjusted net yards per attempt.

Career Summary: Cousins was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft as the backup to fellow rookie Robert Griffin III. After occasionally playing in place for an injured Griffin, Cousins became the full-time starter during the 2015 season. Cousins signed with the Minnesota Vikings prior to the 2018 season after he and the Redskins failed to agree on an extension.

So far in his career, Cousins has made the Pro Bowl four times, led the league in completion percentage in 2015, and tied the NFL record for most game-winning drives in a single season with eight. Off of the field, Cousins has won the Bart Starr Award.

Why It’s a Good Idea: Like Wilson, Cousins is one of the most prolific quarterbacks available and while he is recovering from an achilles tear, he would be an immediate upgrade over Pickett. Again, if the Steelers have really found a new sense of urgency to bring playoff wins back to Pittsburgh, signing Cousins may be their best chance to satisfy that urgency in 2024.

Why It’s a Bad Idea: While it is expected that Cousins will fully recover, at 35-years-old, an achilles tear is one of the more serious injuries to recover from. It is not impossible for Cousins’ level of play to go right back to where it was pre-injury, it is not likely it does. Along with the injury concerns, the expected contract will likely be too expensive for the Steelers as his estimated cost per season is $45 million.

In addition, like Wilson’s case, the Steelers committed to Pickett earlier in the offseason, and Cousins will likely not consider any options that involve competing for a job.

Raiders QB Jimmy Garappolo Steelers

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) is sacked by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Jimmy Garoppolo, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS, 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, 32 years old

Latest: Steelers Floated as Good Fit for Jimmy Garoppolo

Contract Status: Expected to be released after the NFL suspended him for two games due to a use of a prescription medication without obtaining a therapeutic use exemption from the NFL. His next projected contract demand is unknown.

Previous Contract, Expected Demands: Prior to 2023, Garoppolo signed a three-year, $67.5 million contract with the Las Vegas Raiders which reunited him with Josh McDaniels. With his injury history and suspension looming, it is unlikely that he gets starting quarterback money so it is uncertain what his demands will be on the open market.

2023 Season: Garoppolo finished the 2023 season with six starts, 1,205 passing yards, seven touchdowns, nine interceptions and a career-low 77.7 passer rating. Additionally, Garoppolo finished with his lowest adjusted net yards per attempt (4.58) since he was a backup with the Patriots in 2015.

Career Summary: The New England Patriots selected Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft and spent his first four seasons as Tom Brady’s backup. After Brady was suspended for the first four games on the 2016 season, Garoppolo started the first two games of the season and had immediate success until he was sidelined by an injury. The Patriots traded Garoppolo to the San Fransisco 49ers in 2017 where he stayed until this past season. His tenure in San Fransisco consisted of two good years and three seasons plagued by injuries.

In his career, Garoppolo won two Super Bowls during his tenure with the Patriots and owns a 4-2 postseason record as a starting quarterback with all four of this victories coming as a 49er.

Why It’s a Good Idea: After a down year and his suspension looming, it is unlikely that he will get a starting job, though he could be a guy that could push and mentor Kenny Pickett this summer while serving as the backup in 2024. This move would give the Steelers a quality backup that could step up and start games if needed down the road while not potentially breaking the bank. It is known that the Steelers value a quality backup and that they are willing to pay somebody decent money to be in that role like they did with Mitch Trubisky in 2023.

Why It’s a Bad Idea: Garoppolo, even with an extensive injury history and a short suspension upcoming, may fetch a bidding war once free agency opens. If the price becomes too high, it is unlikely that the Steelers would bring him in as there is still a belief in Pickett being the franchise guy in Pittsburgh.

Taylor Heinicke, ATLANTA FALCONS, 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, 30 years old

Latest: Falcons QB with Ties to Arthur Smith Name to Watch for Steelers, Falcons QB Could be Sleeper Fit for the Steelers

Contract Status: Could be released under new leadership. If the Falcons decided to release Heinicke, it would save the team $7 million against the 2024 cap.

Previous Contract, Expected Demands: Heinicke signed a two-year, $14 million deal with the Falcons before last season. If the Falcons released Heinicke, a realistic contract would be around $5 million a season.

2023 Season: In his first year with the Falcons, Heinicke entered the season as the backup to Desmond Ridder. After Ridder struggled periodically in 2023, Heinicke made four spot starts throughout the year. In his appearances, Heinicke completed 74 of his 136 passing attempts (54.4%) for 890 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions. His passer rating ended up as 74.7 as his adjusted net yards per attempt dipped to 5.30.

Career Summary: Heinicke went undrafted in the 2015 NFL Draft but he bursted on the scene with Washington in 2021 as he started 15 games for them and won seven of them. His play declined  the next season and then he left for Atlanta after the 2022 campaign. In his NFL career, Heinicke has started 29 career games and owns a record of 13-15-1 record as a starting quarterback.

Why It’s a Good Idea: If the Steelers are going to go forward with the competition strategy at the quarterback position, Heinicke makes sense from that perspective. He is a backup with starting experience under Smith and fits the scheme of the offense well. Heinicke, stylistically, plays a lot like Pickett with some of the chaotic plays he makes out of structure.

Why It’s a Bad Idea: A signing of Heinicke feels a lot like the signing of Trubisky which is a backup with starting experience. Heinicke may not even be better than Pickett and if he is, it is a marginal difference so this type of move would not “move the needle” in regard to winning meaningful games in 2024.


Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt chases Indianapolis Colts quarterback Garnder Minshew on Dec. 16, 2023. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Gardner Minshew, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS, 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, 27 years old

Latest: Steelers Named Fit for Pro Bowl Quarterback

Contract Status: Free agent in 2024.

Previous Contract, Expected Demands: Prior to the 2023 season, Minshew signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Indianapolis Colts. Minshew’s projected contract is in the range of $7 million to $10 million per season.

2023 Season: After arriving in Indy as the perceived incumbent until Anthony Richardson became ready to start. That plan changed slightly as Richardson dazzled in the preseason and earned the Week 1 start. Richardson then suffered a flurry of injuries and Minshew found himself as the starter from Week 5 onward. In 13 starts, Minshew completed 305 of 490 pass attempts (62.2%) for 3,305 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His passer rating finished at 84.6 and his adjusted net yards per attempt came in at 5.75.

Career Summary: Minshew started his career as a sixth-round draft selection of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2019 NFL Draft. A Week 1 injury to Nick Foles catapulted Minshew into the starting lineup. In turn, Minshew went on to set the Jaguars rookie record for passing touchdowns. Minshew’s second season ended early due to injuries. The Jaguars traded Minshew to the Eagles to serve as Jalen Hurts backup in 2021 where he stayed until this past season.

Why It’s a Good Idea: Minshew is an experienced player that provided sparks for teams in the past. A proven backup is needed on this league and if the Steelers are unable to retain Rudolph, Minshew is a solid backup plan.

Why It’s a Bad Idea: This is the type of player that will fetch an unexpected bidding war once free agency opens up due to him proving that he can step into an organization and be the bridge starter or mentor to a rookie quarterback.

If this move was available two offseasons ago, it would make much more sense. Minshew may be better than Pickett right now but he is not good enough to bring championships back to Pittsburgh.

Jacoby Brissett, WASHINGTON COMMANDERS, 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, 31 years old

Latest: Steelers Pegged as New Home for Former Browns QB

Contract Status: Free agent in 2024.

Previous Contract, Expected Demands: Prior to the 2023 season, Brissett signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Washington Commanders. His projected contract is in the range from $5 million to $10 million a season.

2023 Season: After starting 11 games for the Browns in 2022, Brissett went to Washington but failed to register a single start for the Commanders in 2023. He did make appearances in three games and completed 18 of 23 passes (78.3%) for three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Career Summary: The New England Patriots selected Brissett in the third round of the NFL Draft. After two starts for the Patriots, they traded him to the Colts prior to his second season. Brissett has started 48 career games in the NFL between five different franchises. In his career, Brissett has completed 61.3% of his passes for 10,574 yards, 51 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions.

Why It’s a Good Idea: If the Steelers managed to sign Brissett as a veteran backup, he could serve as a true mentor to Pickett on a one-year or short-term deal. Pending what the Steelers do with Mason Rudolph, Brissett would be a serviceable backup with years of experience across many different systems.

Why It’s a Bad Idea: While Brissett brings experience, if the plan is to bring in a quarterback to actually “push” Pickett, there are better options on the market.

Buccaneers at Redskins 10/25/15

Jameis Winston, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS, 6-foot-4, 231 pounds, 30 years old

Contract Status: Set to be a free agent in 2024.

Previous Contract, Expected Demands: Jameis Winston has restructured his contract with the New Orleans Saints for the 2024 season but his contract will still expire in March. The projected contract for Winston is around $5 million per season.

2023 Season: In 2023, Winston sat behind Derek Carr on the Saints roster and did not start a game for the team. Winston did make seven appearances throughout the season and completed 25 of his 47 passing attempts (53.2%) for 264 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. While he barely played, his passer rating (57.4) and adjusted net yards per attempt (3.18) finished at the lowest of his career.

Career Summary: After bring selected first overall by Tampa Bay in the 2015 NFL Draft, Winston played his first five seasons as the Buccaneers starting quarterback which included his historic 5,000 yard season in which he tossed 33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions.

After his stint in Tampa, Winston headed to New Orleans to serve in a backup role to Drew Brees. While he has made spot starts since his arrival in New Orleans, Winston has never held a starting quarterback role again even with Brees retiring.

In his career, Winston has started 80 games and has a record of 34-46. So far, Winston completed 61.2% of his passes for 22,104 yards, 141 touchdowns, and 99 interceptions.

Why It’s a Good Idea: With him not likely to demand a starting role, this move would bring in a quality backup and a fantastic locker room guy.

Why It’s a Bad Idea:  Additionally, if the Steelers want to bring in a guy to “push” Pickett, Winston is not the guy to do that at this point in his career.

Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Coordinator Search Candidate Arthur Smith Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota (1) stand on the sideline during an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Marcus Mariota, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES, 6-foot-4, 222 pounds, 30 years old

Latest: Could Steelers Add QB with Ties to New OC Arthur Smith?

Contract Status: Free agent in 2024.

Previous Contract, Expected Demands: Heading into the 2023 season, Mariota signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Eagles. Mariota’s demands should be about the same heading into 2024.

2023 Season: After departing the Falcons, Mariota signed a one-year deal with the Eagles to sit behind Jalen Hurts. Appearing in just three games in 2023, Mariota attempted just 23 passes while completing 15 of them. He tossed one touchdown and one interception as a member of the Eagles.

Career Summary: The Tennessee Titans selected Mariota second overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. After his rookie season that only saw three wins in his first 12 starts, Mariota elevated his game and his team to three straight winning seasons. In 2019, Mariota started only six games and then found himself on his way to Las Vegas. As a Raider, Mariota served as a backup for two seasons before heading to Atlanta. After Atlanta benched Mariota for Desmond Ridder, Mariota spent one season in Philly as the backup to Hurts.

Why It’s a Good Idea: Mariota has been around the league and does have prior experience with Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. In his last year starting, Mariota started 13 games for Smith and the Falcons in 2022 meaning he knows his way around Smith’s offense.

While he and Pickett play the quarterback positions in different styles, Mariota would be able to help Pickett learn the new offense.

Why It’s a Bad Idea: Just like Winston and Brissett, a Mariota signing would be solely for the veteran experience and strictly for a backup role.

Pittsburgh Steelers Sam Darnold

INGLEWOOD, CA – DECEMBER 20: New York Jets Quarterback Sam Darnold (14) celebrates after winning their first game of the season during an NFL game between the New York Jets and the Los Angeles Rams on December 20, 2020, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)

Sam Darnold, SAN FRANSISCO 49ERS, 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, 26 years old

Latest: Former Steelers WR Wants Team To Sign Sam Darnold

Contract Status: Free agent in 2024.

Previous Contract, Expected Demands: Darnold signed a one-year, $4.5 million contract with the 49ers last offseason. As a perceived backup in the league, his next contract should be around the same, money per year wise, at least.

2023 Season: The 2023 season had Darnold in San Fransisco as a backup for the NFC Champion 49ers. Darnold started the last week of the season as the 49ers rested their starters before the playoffs. In his lone start, in which the 49ers lost, Darnold completed 16 of 26 passes (61.5%) for 189 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions.

Career Summary: After being the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft by the New York Jets, Darnold opened the season as a 21-year-old starting quarterback which was the youngest since the AFL-NFL merger. After three inconsistent and injury riddled seasons in the Gotham Green, the Jets traded Darnold to the Carolina Panthers in 2021. Following two seasons in Carolina, Darnold signed a one-year deal to backup Brock Purdy in San Fransisco.

Why It’s a Good Idea: Out of the guys in the same tier as him, Darnold gives the most to be excited about at just 26-years-old. In San Fransisco, Darnold learned for a year under Shanahan which some coaches could like due to the fast development of Purdy.

Why It’s a Bad Idea: The reason that Darnold did not succeed in New York and Carolina was inconsistent play. His play with the 49ers did not necessarily raise his stock due to the small sample size of playing time.

Tyrod Taylor, NEW YORK GIANTS, 6-foot-1, 217 pounds, 34 years old

Contract Status: Free agent in 2024.

Previous Contract, Expected Demands: In 2022, Taylor signed a two-year, $11 million contract with the New York Giants. Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports projected Taylor to receive around $5 million per season on his next contract.

2023 Season: Taylor made five starts for the Giants in 2023 and played to a 2-3 record in place of an injured Daniel Jones. After Taylor injured his ribs, rookie Tommy DeVito took his place and never surrendered the job afterwards. In his 11 appearances, Taylor completed 64.4% of his passes for 1,341 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions.

Career Summary: After a stellar college career at Virginia Tech, Taylor became a sixth-round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens. In his second season, Taylor won Super Bowl XLVII as the Ravens backup quarterback.

Taylor played his first four NFL seasons in Baltimore and then signed with Buffalo for a starting opportunity. In 2015, Taylor earned his first and only Pro Bowl nod. Outside of his time in Baltimore and Buffalo, Taylor spent with the Browns, Chargers, Texans, and Giants and served in mostly backup roles.

Why It’s a Good Idea: Taylor played well in 2023 despite the team leaning toward DeVito after his initially injury. Taylor’s deep ball is still in good form and would be a good backup for a lot of teams.

Why It’s a Bad Idea: When Smith’s offense performed at it’s peak was with a pocket passer at the quarterback position. While Taylor can deliver a strike, the backup role would be better addressed with somebody else.

Steelers Browns

Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco passes against the New York Jets during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Dec. 28, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Joe Flacco, CLEVELAND BROWNS, 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, 39 years old

Latest: Steelers Pegged as New Home for Former Ravens QB

Contract Status: Free agent in 2024.

Previous Contract, Expected Demands: Flacco started the 2023 season at home but later signed a one-year, $4.5 million contract with the Browns. The projected contract for Flacco is in the same range in regard to money per season.

2023 Season: Flacco started the season on the could but signed with the Browns mid season. Flacco ended up with five starts for the Browns and guided them to the playoffs. In the regular season, Flacco posted a 60.3% completion percentage, 1,616 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. In the playoffs, Flacco’s magic disappeared as the Texans blew the Browns out.

Career Summary: Flacco spent his first 11 seasons in Baltimore and won Super Bowl XLVII with the Ravens. The Ravens traded Flacco to the Broncos in 2019 where he spent one season. Afterwards, Flacco signed with the Jets where he played for three seasons as a backup. Flacco has started 185 games in the NFL and was named Super Bowl MVP once in his career and earned the 2023 NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Why It’s a Good Idea: Flacco showed that he can still sling the ball in his time with the Browns. In a backup role, Flacco would serve as a mentor to Pickett.

Why It’s a Bad Idea: With better options on the market and Flacco’s age being so high, the Steelers should look elsewhere for their backup quarterback. While Flacco showed his arm talent with the Browns, he showed his turnover issues, too.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Baker Mayfield

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) looks for an open receiver from the pocket during an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024 in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Peter Joneleit)

Baker Mayfield, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS, 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, 28 years old

Latest: Mayfield agreed to terms with the Buccaneers to keep him in Tampa Bay on a three-year, $100 million contract which includes $50 million guaranteed, according to a report by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Contract Status: Free agent in 2024.

Previous Contract, Expected Demands: Mayfield signed a one-year, $4 million prove-it deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2022 season. Pro Football Network projected that Mayfield could “command $75 million” in free agency.

2023 Season: Mayfield revitalized his career in 2023 after leading the Buccaneers to the playoffs and upsetting the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round. In 2023, Mayfield set career highs in multiple categories. He started all 17 games for the Bucs as he completed 364 of 566 passes (64.3%) for a career-high 4,044 yards and 28 touchdowns. He threw 10 interceptions and finished the season with a 94.6 passer rating.

Career Summary: The Cleveland Browns selected Mayfield with the first overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. Mayfield guided the Browns to their first playoff win in the last 26 seasons but the team casted him off for Deshaun Watson a season later. Mayfield started the 2022 season in Carolina before the Panthers released him midseason. The Rams claimed Mayfield for depth after the Matthew Stafford injury.

In total, Mayfield has won 40 of his 86 career starts and just eclipsed the 20,000 career passing yard mark.

Why It’s a Good Idea: Mayfield is a better quarterback right now than Pickett and if he could replicate his 2023 season, the Steelers may be able to fulfill Art Rooney’s urge to win a playoff game in 2024. Mayfield has shown the ability to bounce back from the ups-and-downs of his career and is a veteran of AFC North football.

Also, why would Mayfield not want the chance to beat his former team twice a year?

Why It’s a Bad Idea: Mayfield is projected to receive a big payday after his bounce-back season. After Geno Smith’s breakout season in Seattle, the Seahawks awarded him with a nice contract but gave themselves an “out” after one season just in case he regressed back into what he was before. Mayfield does not seem as humble so without that safety blanket, signing Mayfield could blow up in the Steelers face.