Steelers Don't Have Options Outside of In-House Quarterbacks
PITTSBURGH -- The biggest question mark surrounding the Steelers this offseason continues to be the one player they've already got secured to the roster for the next two seasons.
Bud Dupree, Javon Hargrave, Matt Feiler, Mike Hilton, Zach Banner and other miscellaneous pieces need to sit down and figure out their future with or without a Pittsburgh jersey on, but the expected retain of most of their free agent group leaves the biggest question even more uncertain - and worrisome - for next year.
Right now, the Steelers sit on a little over $6 million in cap space for the 2020 free agency period. This is assumably before they make cuts and re-work contracts to try and find the needed room to re-sign the number of free agents they have and possibly offer players extensions with left over room.
A position not on that to-do list is quarterback. A situation the Steelers continue to know little about, but hold themselves firm to the belief that they should have a veteran quarterback behind center when the 2020 season kicks off.
“Everything we hear so far is positive," Art Rooney II said on Ben Roethlisberger. “He is still in the early stages of rehab. That’s going to start to ramp up soon. We’re anxious to see his progress."
As for other options, both Rooney and Mike Tomlin made it clear - Mason Rudolph is the backup next season.
“I think as we sit here today, we are all comfortable with Mason being our backup,” Rooney said. “Speaking of unusual seasons, he had an unusual season. He had to deal with some unusual circumstances, including injuries and everything else. I think it was an experience for him . . . the old story, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Hopefully it is that kind of situation for him. I think we are all pretty comfortable with Mason coming back as our backup and being a guy who can continue to develop.”
Leaving the Steelers with, well, the same quarterback situation they had last season that ultimately lead to the inability to score more than 10 points in their final three showings.
There's reasons this team needs to stick with the hope that Rudolph improves and Roethlisberger heals. Cap space, and the lack of it.
Roethlisberger's $34 million in 2020 puts a pretty high ceiling on Pittsburgh's quarterback negotiations, leaving a veteran quarterback with enough potential to lead a team on edge about receiving a smaller contract.
Players like Teddy Bridgewater and Marcus Mariota won't be looking for bargain deals and the second-tier group like Blake Bortles aren't a much better option than Rudolph for the money they'd seemingly cost.
Unless they're willing to lose a player like Bud Dupree to secure a backup quarterback who may not play in 2020, their only option seems to be sticking with the group in-house.
Rooney and Tomlin both acknowledged at the end of the season that all of the Steelers' offensive problems cannot be solved with the return of Roethlisberger. James Conner's lack of playing time, JuJu Smith-Schuster's back-and-forth season and virtually no tight end play aren't neccassarily keys to success that return because of Ben.
The offseason approach is about fixing the issues around the quarterback position to make the job easier if Rudolph needs to step back in this fall. And because of their lack of options - or virtually no options - outside of him and Ben, this team is sticking with the two passers they started 2019 with, again.