The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac tweeted hours after the Pittsburgh Steelers were reportedly re-signing quarterback Mason Rudolph that the team clearly viewed Rudolph as the No. 3 option on the depth chart.
He obviously wasn’t returning to Pittsburgh to replace Kenny Pickett and apparently wouldn’t be supplanting backup Mitch Trubisky either.
But that hasn’t stopped Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger from speculating about the possibility of the Steelers ousting Trubisky to place Rudolph in the backup role.
While appearing as a guest on 93.7 The Fan’s Morning Show on May 16, Spielberger argued that that option is on the table for Pittsburgh
“I think it will be Mitchell Trubisky’s job at the outset, but the idea of maybe clearing up a decent amount of cap room, clearing up $8 million is somewhat enticing,” Spielberger said. “If they think Rudolph’s a good enough backup and don’t think there’s that big of a gap between him and Trubisky, [Rudolph] obviously has a ton of familiar with the team and the system and all those things.
“Maybe you do want to clear that space and enough space to save yourself one final offseason move.”
Mitch Trubisky’s Expensive Contract
For much of the offseason, Steelers pundits considered Trubisky a cut candidate because of his expensive contract. He will count as a $10.625 million cap hit in 2023.
Among quarterbacks, Trubisky is ranked 15th with that cap hit for this upcoming season. All 14 signal callers ahead of him, in terms of 2023 cap hits, are projected starters.
But the Steelers elected to keep Trubisky this offseason without another potential backup on the roster. In February, Steelers general manager Omar Khan even implied Trubisky could remain in Pittsburgh beyond 2023.
“Mitch has been awesome since the day he got here,” Khan said. “How he’s been with Kenny [Pickett] has been great.
“I look forward to having him around here for a long time.”
Khan spoke about bringing back Rudolph as well, saying “the door is still open” to the former third-round pick returning to Pittsburgh.
Perhaps Khan hoped to bring back the same quarterback depth chart for 2023 all along. But Spielberger is correct that Rudolph’s return gives the Steelers options.
They can enter the season with a loaded quarterback room, full of depth in case of injuries. Or they can depart with Trubisky then install Rudolph as the team’s backup. Doing so would still save the Steelers $8 million in cap space.
Steelers Looking for One Final Offseason Move?
Whether the Steelers release or trade Trubisky could depend on whether Khan finds one more offseason significant move he wants to make.
Spotrac reported on May 17 that the Steelers have $7.15 million remaining in cap space. So technically, they do the the room to make another minor deal and still save space for potential free agents during the season.
One possibility is the Steelers signing linebacker Kwon Alexander. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on May 16 that the veteran inside linebacker visited the Steelers.
Alexander made $1.272 million on a one-year deal with the New York Jets last season.
Theoretically, the Steelers could sign Alexander and not need any additional cap space. But if the team did need more room under the cap for any reason, Khan has the option to cut Trubisky now that Rudolph is back in the fold.
Khan could also wait and potentially shop Trubisky on the trade block during the preseason. A contending team who suffers an injury at quarterback in August could be willing to pay a high price for a quarterback with experience.
At that point, maybe the Steelers won’t be able to use the cap space a Trubisky trade would yield, but such a move could result in an additional draft pick next spring.