In theory, the Pittsburgh Steelers are poised to stage a three-way competition for the team’s starting quarterback job, with Mitch Trubisky, Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph the three contenders. But that’s going to be more of a formality than anything else, according to Steelers insider Ray Fittipaldo, who covers the team for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“The writing is on the wall for Mason Rudolph,” Fittipaldo told The PM Team of Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller on June 15. “It could be a week into training camp, or two weeks into training camp, but eventually it’s going to be Mitch vs. Kenny. Mason is going to be involved, for sure, but I think it’s only going to be for a week or two,” he added.
That begs the question: Are the Steelers going to keep Rudolph in the fold for the 2022 season?
According to Fittipaldo, the answer is no, and the organization is simply biding its time before an opportunity to trade him presents itself, most likely after a quarterback injury — or multiple QB injuries — strike another team.
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What Can the Steelers Get for Mason Rudolph?
That said, Fittipaldo believes the Steelers would be happy with getting a fifth-round pick in exchange for Rudolph.
“But if the middle of August (or) end of August rolls around and they are not getting those types of offers, I think they would be more than happy to get a sixth-round pick for him,” he said.
That’s not unreasonable. The Steelers received a fifth-round pick from the Jacksonville Jaguars for Josh Dobbs in 2019, who has a lesser NFL résumé than Rudolph, but also represented a lesser financial investment. The team that acquires Rudolph would inherit his $3 million salary for 2022 (while the Steelers would incur a dead cap charge of $1.04 million), as per overthecap.com.
Nor does Fittipaldo believe that Rudolph has to have a stellar training camp to garner interest on the trade market.
“I don’t necessarily think Mason has to have a great camp or a great preseason game to make that happen,” he said, calling the fifth-year pro a “good backup quarterback,” one who has a 5-4-1 record as a starter since the Steelers made him a third-round pick (No. 76 overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft.
“Mason has done enough in his NFL career — once there is an injury — I think he’s going to be attractive as a second- or third-team quarterback for another franchise,” concluded Fittipaldo, which would leave 2022 seventh-round pick Chris Oladokun as Pittsburgh’s third-string quarterback.
QB Injuries Could Prompt the Steelers to Keep Mason Rudolph
Of course, plans could quickly go awry if one of Pittsburgh’s quarterbacks gets injured in a preseason game, which might prompt the Steelers to keep Rudolph in the fold for 2022. Recall that the Steelers needed four quarterbacks to get through the 2019 season — a year in which undrafted free agent rookie Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges started six games.
And in 2004, quarterback injuries pushed Ben Roethlisberger into a starting role sooner than the team anticipated. Having entered his rookie training camp as the team’s No. 3 quarterback, Roethlisberger moved into the backup slot when Charlie Batch suffered a season-ending injury during the preseason. Roethlisberger started his first NFL game in Week 3 after Tommy Maddox injured his elbow in Week 2 at Baltimore.
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