After an offseason of significant speculation regarding its quarterbacks, the Pittsburgh Steelers depth chart behind center apparently won’t change after all.
Pittsburgh sports media personality Andrew Fillipponi tweeted on May 15 that veteran quarterback Mason Rudolph is returning to the Steelers.
Steelers podcaster Kevin Adams confirmed the report, tweeting a screenshot of a text conversation he had with Rudolph.
With the re-signing of Rudolph, the Steelers will have the same three quarterbacks on their depth chart as last season. The only change for the team’s top three quarterbacks from last summer is Kenny Pickett will enter the 2023 season as the starter.
Rudolph figures to be Pittsburgh’s third-string signal caller behind backup Mitch Trubisky.
QB Mason Rudolph Re-Signs With Steelers
Speaking to the media in late February, Steelers general manager Omar Khan refused to rule out the possibility of Rudolph returning for a sixth season in Pittsburgh.
“The door is still open [for Rudolph returning].”
In the same press conference, Khan expressed a desire to keep Trubisky in Pittsburgh “for a long time.”
But the Steelers media didn’t buy into Khan’s comments. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac speculated that the Steelers could trade Trubisky for a middle-round draft pick.
Releasing Trubisky was also a possibility because it would have saved the Steelers $8 million in cap space.
The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly said throughout the offseason that Rudolph would not be back with the Steelers in 2023. Other Steelers analysts such as Steelers Depot’s Alex Kozora shared that opinion.
With that in mind, it comes as rather shocking news that Rudolph is returning to the Steelers.
The Steelers drafted Rudolph in the third round of the 2018 NFL draft as a potential eventual Ben Roethlisberger replacement. But when given the opportunity to start when Roethlisberger missed nearly all of 2019 because of an elbow injury, Rudolph was less than stellar, throwing for 13 touchdowns and 9 interceptions while averaging just 6.2 yards per attempt.
Rudolph lost his job midseason in 2019 to Duck Hodges, who is a 27-year-old no longer in the league.
Rudolph started one game during both 2020 and 2021 but didn’t win either contest. Then with the arrival of Pickett and Trubisky, the Steelers pushed him to third on the depth chart.
The soon-to-be 28-year-old didn’t appear in a regular season game last year. He dressed for only one contest when Pickett was ruled out for the matchup against the Carolina Panthers.
In 17 career appearances, Rudolph has completed 61.5% of his passes for 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He’s averaged 6.2 yards per pass.
Rudolph to Enter 2023 as Steelers’ No. 3 QB
In an ideal world, the Steelers wouldn’t accept the $10.625 million cap hit for Trubisky. That’s a high price to pay for a backup quarterback.
Because of that high price, the Steelers were linked to cheaper veteran backup quarterbacks such as Andy Dalton this offseason.
But playing a game of quarterback musical chairs is risky business. The Steelers could cut Trubisky to save cap space but then miss on signing Dalton. By the time the Steelers re-signed a backup signal caller to replace Trubisky, the cap savings could have been minimal too.
Obviously, the Steelers couldn’t cut Trubisky and then use Rudolph as a fall back option for a backup quarterback because Rudolph was a free agent.
With Rudolph now on the roster, it will be interesting to see if the “Trubisky is a cut candidate narrative returns.” Rudolph has the experience to be Pittsburgh’s backup behind center, and the Steelers can still save $8 million by releasing Trubisky.
However, given what Khan said about Trubisky and Rudolph in February, re-signing Rudolph very likely isn’t a power play to cut Trubisky for more cap space. The Steelers simply liked their veteran quarterbacks last year and preferred to have the group back for Pickett’s first full season as an NFL starter.
After the Rudolph signing, the band is officially back together.