On Thursday afternoon a report emerged that the Pittsburgh Steelers were “closing in” on signing backup quarterback Mason Rudolph to a one-year contract extension. On Thursday night—around the time the 2021 NFL Draft was getting underway—the Steelers formally announced the one-year extension. While financial terms were not disclosed by the team, ESPN senior NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler reports that the agreement pays an average of $3 million per year in 2021 and 2022 “along with upsides to get it higher.”
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network/NFL.com gets a little more specific with the details, reporting that “the extension is worth $5 million and includes up to $4 million in additional incentives related to playing time.”
A Big Raise for Mason Rudolph
An average of $3 million per year is (approximately) three times what Mason Rudolph has been earning. According to overthecap.com, Rudolph was scheduled to earn a salary of $1,014,801 in 2021 and count $1,247,867 against the salary cap.
But the move ensures a certain amount of continuity in Pittsburgh’s quarterback room, as until the Rudolph extension the Steelers did not have a QB under contract in 2022. It also gives the Steelers a chance to audition Rudolph as a starting quarterback next year, assuming the team cannot find a better option between now and then. Regardless, the move doesn’t break the bank and leaves plenty of room for the Steelers to spend on other quarterbacks, whether acquired via trade, free agency or the draft.
That includes former Washington first-round pick Dwayne Haskins, who is signed to a one-year Reserve/Future deal and can readily be extended for another year at a very reasonable cost in 2022, as he will be a restricted free agent when his contract expires.
The Chicago Bears Traded Up for QB Justin Fields
In other quarterback-related news, there had been speculation on Thursday that the Steelers might select quarterback Justin Fields if he fell all the way to No. 24, with Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporting that the organization likes Fields “as much as any” quarterback in the 2021 Draft.
As it turns out, the Chicago Bears traded up in the first round to grab Fields at No. 11 overall.
Prior to the draft, Steelers Hall of Famer Alan Faneca voiced his support for Fields after it was reported that the Ohio State QB is managing epilepsy. He also sent a message of encouragement to Fields via tweet, telling him “If I can do it, so can @justnfields, and so can anyone else.”
Much like Fields, Faneca was diagnosed with epilepsy as a youth, but he went on to become a first-round pick of the Steelers, won a Super Bowl, and had a 13-year Hall of Fame career.
First-Round Picks of the AFC North
Finally, if you didn’t stay up past the Steelers’ pick at No. 24, know that the Cleveland Browns selected cornerback Greg Newsome II (Northwestern) at No. 26 overall, with the Baltimore Ravens taking wide receiver Rashod Bateman (Minnesota) one pick later.
The Ravens also had another pick in the first round, which they used on Penn State edge rusher Jayson Oweh (No. 31 overall).
Cincinnati’s first-round pick came early in the draft, with the Bengals reuniting wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (LSU) with quarterback Joe Burrow, who Cincy selected No. 1 overall last year.