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Steelers Not Seeking External Starting Quarterback

The Pittsburgh Steelers are committed to giving Kenny Pickett another shot, and want to bring back Mason Rudolph, but not an outside starter.



Pittsburgh Steelers QB Kenny Pickett, Mason Rudolph
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph at training camp on July 28, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Pittsburgh Steelers are not interested in signing or otherwise acquiring a quarterback that will demand to be the team’s starter, as first reported by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Steelers Now was able to confirm that the Steelers are not actively seeking an external starting quarterback.

The Steelers have publicly committed to giving Kenny Pickett another shot as the team’s starting quarterback, though head coach Mike Tomlin promised that he will face competition for the role.

That competition apparently will not extend to signing a player that would come with an expectation of starting like Kirk Cousins, Justin Fields or Russell Wilson. The Steelers have been listed among the betting favorites to land both Fields and Wilson, but there are significant hurdles to each joining the team, beyond the Steelers having committed to Pickett as the starter.

Fields will likely require significant draft pick compensation to pry away from the Chicago Bears, and he hasn’t played especially better than Pickett in his three seasons as Chicago’s starting quarterback. While he possesses elite athletic traits that Pickett does not, the Steelers would either have to commit approximately $23 million to a fifth-year option for Fields in 2025 before he ever plays a snap for the team. Pickett is under contract through 2025, with his option scheduled for the 2026 season.

RELATED: What Would a Justin Fields Trade Cost the Steelers?

Cousins is reportedly looking for a contract that will pay him a fully guaranteed $90 million over the next two seasons. The Steelers are still over the salary cap, and would have to make massive cuts in order to be able to afford such a contract. They also have never given out a fully guaranteed multi-year contract to any player.

Wilson’s intentions seem less clear. He is likely to be released by the Denver Broncos, who are on the hook for $39 million of his salary. It has been reported that he may be willing to play for a cheaper salary, but whether or not he would accept coming to Pittsburgh as a 1B to Pickett is another story.

The Steelers do seem to have genuine interest in re-signing Mason Rudolph, and some inside in the organization wish him to be the starter, Dulac reported on Saturday. But it seems likely that Rudolph will wish to test the waters and see what his options are around the league when free agency opens. The Steelers likely will not want to wait for that process to play out to make their own decision at quarterback.

So who does that leave if not Rudolph? The Steelers will likely look for another quarterback from the second tier of available options, such as Ryan Tannehill, Jacoby Brissett, Sam Darnold, Tyrod Taylor, Marcus Mariota, Drew Lock, Gardner Minshew, Tyler Huntley, Joe Flacco, Blaine Gabbert, Carson Wentz and Joshua Dobbs.

The Steelers will also likely look to the 2024 NFL Draft to bolster their quarterback depth, though it is unlikely they’ll find an immediate starting option there this year, either.