The Pittsburgh Steelers could look at a number of different options at quarterback this offseason.
While we know for sure that returnees Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins will receive their opportunities at the starting job, what’s uncertain is who the Steelers will bring in to compete with both quarterbacks.
Kapadia explains why Mariota — despite not having started a game since 2019 — would appeal as an option to the Steelers.
“Mike Tomlin has seemed intrigued by the idea of having a more mobile quarterback, and despite Mariota’s flaws, he could offer that,” says Kapadia. “When Mariota was last a free agent, he signed a two-year deal worth $17.6 million. Even that got negotiated down during his second season with the Las Vegas Raiders. In other words, he’s going to be much less expensive than many of the other options out there.”
Kapadia also mentions how Ben Roethlisberger was actually one of the worst starting QB’s in the league last season. Despite Roethlisberger’s ineffectiveness, Pittsburgh still finished the season 9-7-1 and made it to the postseason.
Mariota Could Serve as ‘Competent’ QB for Steelers
In other words, the Steelers just need a “competent” quarterback. While Mariota was never a great quarterback with the Tennessee Titans, he was certainly at least a serviceable one. During his final two full seasons as a starter, he posted a 76.2 offensive grade (14th among QB’s) in 2017 and a 76.8 offensive grade in 2018 (18th among QB’s), according to Pro Football Focus.
Mariota also once led the Titans to a playoff victory during the 2017 season. So unlike most of the available quarterbacks on the market, he not only has playoff experience, he has a win to show for it.
Kapadia further explains how a Mariota signing is essentially a low-risk, high-reward option. If Mariota doesn’t pan out, the Steelers could look to their rookie draftee or the other veteran options on their roster.
“Meanwhile, they could use a draft pick on someone like Liberty’s Malik Willis and let him sit for a year if necessary,” says Kapadia. “If Mariota surprises and plays well, that’s a nice outcome. If he doesn’t, they have another option.”
The idea of starting a 28-year-old QB who is considered a first-round bust obviously won’t excite any Steelers fans. But Mariota’s market value won’t be as high as it was during the 2020 offseason when he was coming off of a season in which he started half of the year.
The Steelers could certainly do worse than Mariota and simply put, the signing won’t be expensive.
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Rooney: Steelers Are ‘Comfortable’ With Rudolph
It remains to be seen if Pittsburgh will actually go into the 2022 season with Rudolph as its No. 1 QB. But the organization is certainly sounding like they’re confident in the young quarterback moving forward.
Just days after general manager Kevin Colbert proclaimed Rudolph as the Steelers’ No. 1 QB entering the offseason, team president Art Rooney II is following up on those claims.
While speaking to Andrew Stockey of Pittsburgh-area station WTAE, Rooney says that Pittsburgh is “comfortable” with Rudolph.
“I think Mason, number one, is somebody that we feel comfortable with that is excited about coming in and competing for this position this year,” says Stockey. “He does have some mobility and has shown it from time to time. He may not fit the definition of some mobile quarterbacks out there that really rely on their legs to make a difference, but I think that he’s mobile enough to get the job done.”
Considering Rudolph may very be the Steelers’ best option at quarterback in Week 1, Pittsburgh better feel “comfortable” with the 26-year-old as Roethlisberger’s successor.