The Pittsburgh Steelers may part with one notable veteran before the season starts, according to one analyst.
As noted by Gerry Dulac of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, quarterback Mason Rudolph “is likely to be traded” before the season starts rather than be the starter. Dulac mentioned the possible scenario while discussing the Steelers’ selection of Kenny Pickett with the 20th overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft.
“Regardless what role Pickett will eventually assume in the offense, the reality is his arrival puts Trubisky in an awkward, tenuous position,” explained Dulac on Sunday, May 1. “Six weeks ago, Trubisky’s signing in free agency was met with much hope and anticipation — a former No. 2 overall pick looking to pull a Ryan Tannehill-like resurrection with the Steelers. Now, after one bad game, maybe even just one interception, all he will hear is the fans crying for Pickett.
The same is true for Rudolph, though he is likely to be traded before the season rather than be the starter.”
Steelers Could Easily Cut Rudolph With Little Risk
With the Steelers now having a stacked room with two first-round draft pick quarterbacks — Mitch Trubisky was the No. 2 overall pick by the Chicago Bears in 2017 — in the equation, it becomes a realistic possibility that Pittsburgh could cut ties with Rudolph.
Rudolph is due to earn just $3 million this season. If Pittsburgh were to cut the 26-year-old quarterback, it would only result in a dead money cap hit of just over $1 million.
In other words, the Steelers could easily trade or release Rudolph with very little damage to the salary cap.
Rudolph is on the verge of entering his fifth season with the Steelers. Prior to the free agency signing of Trubisky and the draft selection of Pickett, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert stated back in February that Rudolph is the starter.
Via Brooke Pryor of ESPN:
“If we started a season today, Mason would be our starter,” said Colbert. “He’s 5-4-1 as a starter. We’re excited to see what’s next for Mason.”
“We know we’re going to add to the position,” Colbert continued. “I can’t tell you how at this point. We will go to camp with four. If we had to start today with Mason as our starter, let’s go. We’ll try to build the best team around him.”
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Rudolph Will Have to Battle for Roster Spot
Colbert’s prediction of Pittsburgh entering training camp with four quarterbacks will turn out to be true. In addition to Rudolph, Pickett and Trubisky, the Steelers will also bring seventh-round draft selection Chris Oladokun into the equation.
During Pryor’s analysis of the Steelers’ selection of Oladokun, she mentioned how he could eventually emerge as the No. 3 quarterback. That could make Rudolph the odd man out.
“The Steelers said they wanted to go into training camp with four quarterbacks, and they rounded out the group with their final pick,” said Pryor. “Oladokun is a mobile quarterback that had 3,164 passing yards. The Steelers brought him in for a visit, one Oladokun said went well. He could wind up being a solid practice squad member or a No. 3 quarterback.”
Rudolph obviously has the advantage of having played in the Steelers’ offensive system for the past four years — something his competition can’t say. Furthermore, Rudolph started eight gams during the 2019 season for an injured Ben Roethlisberger.
While he does have the experience and a decent record (5-4-1) as a starter, it’s worth mentioning he was previously benched as the starting quarterback in 2019 by head coach Mike Tomlin in favor of an undrafted quarterback in Devlin Hodges.
“Just felt like our offense need a spark,” Tomlin said following Rudolph’s benching in November of 2019. “Mason wasn’t doing enough.”
With Pickett ensured a roster spot and Trubisky having signed a contract worth nearly $5.3 million guaranteed in the offseason, Rudolph could very well be on his way out of Pittsburgh if he slips up in the quarterback competition.