Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger‘s pending retirement raises the question, “Who’s next?”
In theory, Mason Rudolph could be the answer.
Pittsburgh drafted him in the third round of the 2018 draft and he’s started 10 games for the club — including eight in the 2019 season when Roethlisberger missed most of the year with an elbow injury.
But to this point, Rudolph hasn’t displayed many signs of becoming a true franchise quarterback. In his spot start against Detroit in Week 10 when Roethlisberger tested positive for COVID-19, Rudolph finished 30-of-50 passing for 242 yards with a touchdown and an interception. That works out to an average of just 4.8 yards per attempt.
Rudolph signed a one-year contract extension with the Steelers in April, so he’ll enter the offseason as Pittsburgh’s incumbent quarterback. Roethlisberger said on Wednesday that his departure will likely help Rudolph’s growth and development as a quarterback.
“He works really hard. He’s smart. He understands what’s going on,” Roethlisberger said, via Mark Kaboly of TheAthletic.com. “I think that it’s just the repetitions — I mean, he got a lot of reps in whatever it was I didn’t play much, however many years ago that was. I know he and ’Duck’ [Devlin Hodges] kind of did some splitting time. But I think this offseason probably knowing that there’s going to be a competition for it, I think that’ll be good for him.
“It’s probably pretty hard to wrap your mind around, ‘What do I have to do to be the starter?’ when there’s an old, veteran guy ahead of you. So I think that could do wonders for him this offseason.”
Rudolph may get that opportunity. But the Steelers could also draft a young quarterback or bring in another established veteran. Either way, Pittsburgh will have a new QB1 after nearly two decades with Roethlisberger.