Mason Rudolph

AFC North Rumors: Trubisky, Apple, Pratt, Johnson

With Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, and Deshaun Watson (tentatively) being cemented behind center in Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, respectively, Pittsburgh is working to name their starting quarterback to open the 2022 NFL season. According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the current situation points towards free agent acquisition Mitchell Trubisky being named the starter for the Steelers’ season opener in Cincinnati.

On 105.7 The Fan, Dulac was quoted saying, “I think the plan is, and I don’t think there is any question about this, unless something would dictate otherwise including injury, I think Mitch Trubisky will go into the regular season as the starter.” He continued, “NFL teams don’t draft quarterbacks No. 1 to have them be the third quarterback and a gameday scratch. I expect Kenny Pickett to be the guy who dresses on gameday (as the primary backup).”

When asked where that leaves five-year veteran Mason Rudolph, Dulac thinks the Steelers will have “a little bit more respect than to keep him around as the third quarterback and a gameday scratch.” Dulac believes Pittsburgh would rather have the two parties mutually move on and try to find him a trade to a desirable location.

Here are a few other rumors from around the AFC North, starting with a couple rumors from the division (and conference) champions from last year:

  • When detailing some training camp position battles in Cincinnati this summer, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic asserted that six-year veteran cornerback Eli Apple will be favored to keep his starting job over rookie second-round pick Cam Taylor-Britt. After the rollercoaster start of his career, Apple played well last year for the Bengals. Despite the team spending heavy draft-capital on his position by drafting Taylor-Britt early, Apple has reportedly responded very well to the pressure and kept his eye on the ball. Taylor-Britt may eventually unseat the incumbent, but, for now, expect to see Apple across from Diontae Johnson or Chase Claypool to open the season this September.
  • Expanding further on the Bengals’ offseason to-do list, Dehner Jr. reported on some possible extension candidates in Cincinnati, claiming that, for now, the Bengals don’t view linebacker Germaine Pratt as an extension candidate. Since Cincinnati selected him in the third-round of 2019, Pratt has been a formidable defender, racking up 76 tackles as a rookie as well as 89 and 91 tackles in the two seasons since. Despite his defensive tenacity, it doesn’t appear that Pratt does quite enough to force an early decision from the Bengals on his future. Instead, Pratt will want to put together a contract year that will either convince Cincinnati to keep him around or convince another franchise to spend big to bring him in. The Bengals will allow him to play out the last year of his rookie deal and assess his value before free agency.
  • Despite the recent one-year deal running back D’Ernest Johnson signed earlier this month to remain in Cleveland, ESPN’s Jake Trotter believes that Johnson could still potentially find himself as the odd man out of a loaded running back room for the Browns. With Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt cemented as 1-2 at running back, Johnson is competing with 2021 draft pick Demetric Felton and 2022 Draft pick Jerome Ford for playing time behind them. Since both Felton and Ford offer versatility to rush and receive out of the backfield, along with cheap rookie deals, it’s not out of the question to imagine Johnson on the outside looking in. In this case, the Browns may want to find a trade-partner to take Johnson and make sure they don’t completely waste the deal they awarded him weeks ago.

Latest On Steelers’ QB Competition

As Pittsburgh rolls into the post-Roethlisberger era, they are in the less than common situation of having four drafted quarterbacks on the roster. Mind you, the Steelers did not originally draft Mitchell Trubisky, but the point is that while most teams’ third- and/or fourth-string quarterbacks tend to be undrafted long-shots, every quarterback on Pittsburgh’s roster had draft capital invested in them. Mark Kaboly of The Athletic gave a breakdown this weekend of where each of these quarterbacks has slotted through spring practices. 

Pittsburgh acquired Trubisky in free agency this offseason after also considering then-free agents Teddy Bridgewater and Jameis Winston. Despite the hole left behind center, the Steelers never seemed to consider trade options such as Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo and made it known early that they were not going to acquire Deshaun Watson. Trubisky signed a reasonable two-year deal to compete for the starting job in Pittsburgh after spending last season as Josh Allen‘s backup in Buffalo.

Trubisky saw all of his work this spring come with the first-team offense, throwing almost solely to Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Pat Freiermuth. Not only did he only work with the first-team, he was the only quarterback to work with the first-team receivers and offensive line combination. Trubisky appears to be a good fit with offensive coordinator Matt Canada‘s motion-heavy offense. Regardless of whether or not this is a clear indication of who will start Week 1, Trubisky is in the mindset that he will win the job saying, “I’m preparing to be a starter. I feel like, no matter what position you’re in, that’s the way you should prepare.”

The quarterback taking snaps with the second-team is not who most would assume. Third-year Steeler Mason Rudolph is currently the second-string quarterback. The former third-round draft pick has started 10 games over his career (eight in his rookie season) with limited success. Despite the potential for him to settle in as someone who had their chance and watched it pass by, Rudolph reportedly “looked the best of the four quarterbacks” this spring. Rudolph is a meticulous worker and preparer and threw the most consistent ball with the biggest body in the group. While many considered him to be nothing more than a camp body, Rudolph put himself in the quarterback conversation, even if it will require some failures from Trubisky and Pickett to get him to the top of the depth chart. “This is the best opportunity I’ve had in four years,” Rudolph told Kaboly. “I am excited, and I look forward to competing.”

Working as the third-string quarterback this spring has been rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett. Head coach Mike Tomlin and Canada both offered that their current snap distribution is based solely on seniority, with Pickett falling behind Trubisky and Rudolph despite the possibility that he may be the most talented of the bunch. The idea is for Pickett to take the time this spring “to learn how to be a pro,” getting comfortable with the scheme and playbook now so that he can focus on competing for his depth chart spot in the summer. Luckily for Pickett, he has a bit of a leg up in terms of the language of the playbook with some familiarity from the time Canada recruited Pickett to Pitt. Pickett didn’t have too many snaps fewer than Trubisky or Rudolph, but his third-string status had him throwing to a very different receiver group. Pickett said he was “trying to be the best pro (he) can be,” calling this spring “100 percent successful.”

Lastly on the roster is rookie seventh-round draft pick Chris Oladokun. Oladokun transferred from South Florida to Samford to South Dakota State throughout his college career, spending that whole time outside of consistent Power 5 football. According to Kaboly, it showed, as Oladokun “looked like a guy who didn’t get many reps and came from a small college.” Oladokun is a project and his dearth of playing time reflected that, with Oladokun pointing out the importance of staying “locked in” mentally. The benefit of Oladokun’s lowly roster status is that he gets plenty of exclusive time working with David Corley, the assistant to quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan. Whether or not Oladokun ever competes for starting snaps in Pittsburgh, his dedicated time with Corley will foster benefits throughout the future of his career.

For now, the spring depth chart reflects the level of experience, just as Tomlin and Canada have intended. Based on the amount of time Trubisky has had with the first-team, it’s hard to imagine anyone else starting behind center in Week 1 at Cincinnati. Though, with Rudolph coming into his own and the talented rookie, Pickett, hot on their heels, it’s anyone’s guess who the Bengals will face in their season opener.

QB Notes: Brady, Lamar, Rudolph, Falcons

Although it has been more than two months since Tom Brady‘s unretirement, the Buccaneers were connected to other quarterback options for a fairly lengthy stretch this winter. Brady retired on Feb. 1 and decided to come back March 13, the Sunday ahead of the 2022 league year’s outset. Shortly after Brady recommitted, the Bucs re-signed Ryan Jensen and Carlton Davis. Chris Godwin agreed to an extension, and Leonard Fournette returned to the fold. Outside additions like Russell Gage, Logan Ryan and Akiem Hicks have joined up as well, separating this offseason from 2021’s historic talent-retention effort. It is safe to say Tampa Bay’s free agency plan would have been different without Brady, who announced a return on that date despite being on the fence about playing again.

You know at this stage, it’s like 55% yes and 45% no,” Brady said during an interview with TNT’s Ernie Johnson (via the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud) of his mid-March stance on playing a 23rd season. “That’s just the reality. It’s not that I’m not 100% committed; it’s just as soon as I make the commitment to do it, it’s like ‘Ugh. All right, here we go.’ It’s like running a marathon. You can’t decide two weeks before the marathon, ‘Hey, I’m going to start running.’

We got right to free agency and I felt some pressure to do it and talked to the team and organization, and it all worked out.”

Brady’s decision almost certainly had an impact on the Bucs’ ensuing coaching change, and the 44-year-old passer has since signed a restructure agreement to help the Bucs add more talent this offseason. Here is the latest from the quarterback scene:

  • Lamar Jackson‘s second offseason of extension eligibility has been quieter than his first, and although the consensus thus far appears to be the Ravens quarterback will exit 2022 without a new deal, Albert Breer of envisions the parties coming to an agreement. Noting the trust between Jackson and the team remains strong, despite the QB’s OTAs absence and the three Ravens power brokers confirming the former MVP has not shown extension interest, Breer points to this and the fifth-year veteran’s desire to stay a Raven as reasons a deal will happen. Deshaun Watson‘s fully guaranteed deal undoubtedly complicates matters for the Ravens, who have Jackson on a $23MM cap number in his fifth-year option season.
  • With the Steelers likely to choose between Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett after the preseason, Mason Rudolph resides as an atypical third-string option. That points to the Steelers looking into trading their longtime backup, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic offers (subscription required). Unless Pickett proves unready to the point the Steelers need Rudolph as Trubisky’s backup, a trade before the team finalizes its 53-man roster could make sense. Rudolph signed a Steelers extension last year, before Trubisky and Pickett entered the equation. The Steelers would save $3MM by trading Rudolph, who is due for free agency in 2023.
  • The Falcons worked out multiyear Ball State starter Drew Plitt this week, Aaron Wilson of tweets. Plitt worked as the Mid-American Conference program’s primary starter from 2019-21, piecing together a 59-19 touchdown pass-to-interception ratio in that time. The Falcons have 2021 UDFA Feleipe Franks as their third QB currently, alongside Marcus Mariota and third-rounder Desmond Ridder.

Latest On Steelers’ QB Situation

As one of the teams without a surefire Week 1 starter at the quarterback position, the Steelers are, naturally, receiving attention with respect to their competition at that spot. That makes the question of which signal-caller would receive first-team reps an important one as OTAs get underway. 

[RELATED: Poll: Which Rookie QB Makes Most Starts?]

As detailed by Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, the answer to that question is Mitch Trubisky. That comes as little surprise, given the multi-year deal he signed in free agency, as the team began its multi-pronged search for Ben Roethlisberger’s successor. The former No. 2 pick has the potential to be a starter once again, after attempting just eight passes as Josh Allen‘s backup in Buffalo last year.

The news that Trubisky is in pole position for the No. 1 job, albeit early on in the offseason, comes after a report Breer made earlier this month that first-rounder Kenny Pickett would have the opportunity to become the starter right away. The Heisman finalist was the only QB taken on Day 1, universally seen as the most NFL-ready prospect in a generally underwhelming class. That may make him the favorite to see the most playing time amongst rookies this year, but Pittsburgh’s situation at the position could remain unsettled into the fall.

Meanwhile, Mark Kaboly of the Athletic adds that incumbent Mason Rudolph “feels he has a legitimate chance” of beating out the two arrivals for the starting role. The 2018 third-rounder has 10 starts to his name, although only two of them have come since 2019. He is still most likely destined to remain a backup or No. 3 on the depth chart, but with uncertainties surrounding his other competitors, the door is still open for him to win the job this summer.

Like in Seattle, the identities of the contenders for the top QB spot are known, but the order in which they will appear on the depth chart remains up in the air to a greater extent than arguably anywhere else. Without the addition of Jimmy Garoppolo or Baker Mayfield looming, of course, the forthcoming competition in the Steel City will be strictly internal, but intriguing nevertheless.

Steelers Notes: Colbert, QB Search, More

When speaking to the media on Monday, outgoing Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert provided an update on a number of topics, beginning with his personal plans. As Gerry Dulac of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (via Twitter), he is unlikely to completely retire once his successor is named. 

[Related: Steelers GM Kevin Colbert To Step Down]

Specifically, Colbert said, “I may or may not have a role” with the franchise after his contract expires following the draft. Dulac adds that the 65-year-old made his intention to step down clear last May, noting that “it was time from a personal standpoint, it was time from a professional standpoint”. ESPN’s Brooke Pryor tweets that Colbert is helping with the search for the new GM, which is primarily taking place before March 1st because teams can block candidates from interviewing after that date.

With regards to the top offseason priority in Pittsburgh – the search for a new starting quarterback – Colbert repeated the team’s public support of Mason Rudolph. “We have confidence that Mason, if we started today, would be our starter and we’re excited to see where that can go”, he said (Twitter link via Dulac). Rudolph holds a record of 5-4-1 as a starter after being a third round pick in 2018.

Here are some other Steelers notes, including more on the QB situation:

  • Colbert made it clear that the team, as expected, will place an RFA tender on Dwayne Haskins. That will leave the Steelers with two incumbent signal callers, but Colbert said “we know we’re going to add to the position” in the offseason, adding that “we will go to camp with four” (Twitter link via Pryor). He didn’t specify what avenue the team could take to acquire other options, but they are expected to be active in any regard.
  • Dulac tweets that Colbert acknowledged the unusually flexible position the team is in with regards to cap space, though he stressed that they traditionally don’t spend as much as other teams on the open market. He did, however, seem to “leave [the] door open to spend” this March.
  • Pryor reports that the Steelers are open to retaining defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt for next year, the final one on his current contract (Twitter link). The 28-year-old missed the entire 2021 season with a knee injury, and is scheduled to have a cap hit of just under $14MM next year. He has 34.5 sacks in seven seasons, all with the Steelers.
  • Finally, Pryor tweets that Pittsburgh has yet to decide whether or not they will pick up linebacker Devin Bush‘s fifth year option. “I think Devin Bush will be a better player in 2022”, Colbert said, referring to his recovery from a torn ACL. It had previously been reported that the team wasn’t picking up the option, but doing so would leave a significant hole in the middle of the team’s defense.

Steelers Unlikely To Acquire Veteran QB

Longtime Steelers GM Kevin Colbert will soon be stepping down, but not until after the 2022 draft. So he will be tasked with setting the team’s course at quarterback in the post-Ben Roethlisberger era, and his modus operandi would suggest that a major splash is not in the cards.

Indeed, Ian Rapoport of hears from sources close to Colbert that Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins will be retained and will be given the chance to compete for the starting quarterback job. Rudolph is under contract through 2022, and while Haskins is eligible for restricted free agency, he has apparently made a favorable impression on head coach Mike Tomlin and can likely be brought back with a minimal commitment.

Beyond those two, acquiring a player like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, or any other veteran QB who might be available on the trade market should not be expected. In his 22 years atop the Steelers’ personnel department, Colbert has only traded a first-round pick for a player one time, when he acquired Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Dolphins in September 2019.

Instead, adding a collegiate passer in the first round of the draft and allowing him to compete with Rudolph and Haskins is likely to be how Colbert elects to move forward. Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett has been mocked to the Steelers by a number of outlets, and the fact that the pro team shares a facility with the university makes it easier for Colbert & Co. to evaluate the Heisman candidate.

Rapoport says Pittsburgh is interested in Pickett, but with his stock seemingly on the rise, and with the Steelers not picking any higher than No. 19 depending on how far they advance in the playoffs, they might not have a shot at the local kid absent a trade-up. And Colbert has only traded up in the first round three times in his tenure.

Evaluating Steelers’ 2022 In-House QB Options

After 18 years in the National Football League, it’s sounding more and more likely that the 2021-22 season will be Ben Roethlisberger‘s last. Over the last few years, Pittsburgh has taken stabs at potential replacements for Roethlisberger, usually utilizing late-round draft picks in hopes of molding a young prospect into a starter. But Roethlisberger potentially putting an end to his career when the season concludes places a lot more pressure on the Steelers to come up with a solution.

The easiest solution is to use the materials you already have. Pittsburgh currently has two quarterbacks on the active roster behind Big Ben and one on the injured reserve. Former first round pick Dwayne Haskins and Joshua Dobbs, currently on IR, both have contracts that expire at the end of the season, but it’s easier to have contract discussions with players already in the building than not.

Mason Rudolph is the team’s current primary backup. Rudolph beat out Dobbs for the second quarterback job and took over as the team’s starter in 2019 when Roethlisberger was ruled out for the season after an elbow surgery. Rudolph went 5-3 as the Steelers’ starter before getting benched for Devlin Hodges after struggling against a winless Bengals team. He completed 62% of his passes for 1,765 yards and threw 13 touchdowns to 9 interceptions on the year. Before the 2021 season, Rudolph signed a one-year extension, pushing his free agency back until after the 2022 season. Rudolph has appeared in one game this year, filling in as Roethlisberger was held out with COVID-19. In a game that resulted in a tie with the winless Lions, Rudolph completed 30 out of 50 pass attempts for 242 yards, throwing 1 touchdown and 1 interception.

Haskins was taken in the 2019 NFL Draft with the 15th overall pick by the Washington Football Team. He saw some game time for Washington in two games in the first 8 weeks of his rookie year, but earned his first start in Week 9 after the season’s original starter, Case Keenum, could not play with a concussion. Haskins took over the offense for every game but one for the rest of the season as he missed Week 17 with an ankle injury. Haskins retained the starting job to begin the 2020 season, but was benched in a Week 5 game against the Rams. He returned to the field when new starter Alex Smith left the game in Week 14 with an injury. Haskins started the next two games before being benched once again, this time for Taylor Heinicke. Haskins was released the next day due to some controversies with breaking COVID-19 protocols and not meeting the team’s standards off the field. In two years of play, Haskins completed 60% of his passes for 2,804 yards, throwing 12 touchdowns to 14 interceptions.

There are plenty of different directions Pittsburgh could go to replace Roethlisberger should this be his final season. While they haven’t quite proven to be world-beaters, Rudolph and Haskins do provide the Steelers with workable options that are already in the building. If the Steelers decide that they don’t think they can win a Super Bowl with the talent currently in their QB room, they’ll be sure to explore some options via free agency, trade, and the 2022 NFL Draft.

If the likes of Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, Ole Miss’s Matt Corral, North Carolina’s Sam Howell, or Liberty’s Malik Willis don’t pique the Steelers’ interest, Pittsburgh may look into a short-term free agent rental as they have in the past with quarterbacks Michael Vick and Bruce Gradkowski. Quarterbacks Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, and Teddy Bridgewater are some of the bigger names set to hit the market this offseason that could delay the Steelers’ need to draft a quarterback until some more attractive prospects potentially surface in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Pittsburgh could also trade, as they did for Dobbs, with a number of quarterbacks rumored to be available for a price. Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson is obviously the most available option, due to a league investigation that could result in disciplinary action. 49ers’ quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been rumored to be available due to the expected emergence of 2021’s No. 3 overall draft pick, Trey Lance. Garoppolo is not known to be flashy, but has still accomplished a 30-13 record as a starter in the NFL. Two other veterans that have shown a little frustration with their current squads and may be open to a trade are Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.

While Steelers’ management is certainly preoccupied right now with making the playoffs in a wild AFC, they will have much to consider when the season comes to an end. Whoever ends up under center for the Steelers in Week 1 of the 2022-23 NFL season, it will certainly be a change of pace for the franchise if the jersey doesn’t have fourteen letters across the top.

Steelers Activate QB Ben Roethlisberger

Some good news for the Steelers’ offense as the team prepares for tomorrow night’s game against the Chargers. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list and is “is on track to play Sunday night.” The news was first reported by Steelers PR man Burt Lauten (on Twitter).

The Steelers have made the move to activate their 18th-year passer, indeed putting Big Ben in line to play Sunday night in Los Angeles. The Steelers also promoted safety Karl Joseph, who stands to help a team missing Minkah Fitzpatrick, who remains on the COVID list. Kevin Dotson is now on IR as well. Dotson, who moved into Pittsburgh’s starting lineup after mixing in as a rookie, is dealing with a high ankle sprain.

Big Ben landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list last weekend, forcing him to miss Sunday’s game against the Lions. The 39-year-old passer had self-reported COVID symptoms to the team and subsequently tested positive for the virus. Roethlisberger has reportedly passed the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols, and while he’s not traveling with the team to California, he is on a separate flight and intending to play on Sunday.

The Steelers offense predictably struggled last weekend against the lowly Lions. While backup QB Mason Rudolph did pass for 242 yards, he only completed 30 of his 50 passing attempts, and that came with an extra period of play before the eventual tie. Rudolph also tossed a touchdown and an interception.

Prior to last weekend, the Steelers had won four in a row to bring themselves squarely into the AFC playoff picture. During that streak, Roethlisberger — whose early-season struggles prompted speculation about his job security — was over 200 passing yards per game, had thrown six TDs, zero interceptions, and posted a 104.6 QB rating (h/t Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network on Twitter).

Steelers Place QB Ben Roethlisberger On Reserve/COVID-19 List

On Saturday evening, the Steelers announced that they were placing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on the reserve/COVID-19 list. As a result, Roethlisberger will miss the club’s game against the Lions this afternoon.

According to Ian Rapoport of, the 39-year-old passer self-reported COVID symptoms to the team and subsequently tested positive for the virus (Twitter link). As Mark Maske of the Washington Post tweets, Roethlisberger is vaccinated, so he is eligible to be removed from the COVID list as soon as he returns two negative tests taken 24 hours apart. That gives him a good chance to suit up for what could be a critical bout with the Chargers next Sunday.

For today, QB2 Mason Rudolph will get the nod in Roethlisberger’s place (Twitter link via Rapoport). Rudolph, a 2018 third-rounder, has not played a significant snap since Week 16 of the 2019 season — he started a meaningless Week 17 game last year — and he boasts a 5-4 career record as a starter, a record that is accompanied by a subpar 82.7 career quarterback rating.

However, if the Steelers could pick a game for Roethlisberger to miss this year, today’s matchup would probably be the one they would pick. The 0-8 Detroit outfit is ranked in the bottom quarter of the league in terms of yards allowed per game, and next-to-last in terms of points allowed per game. Plus, Rudolph does get regular opportunities to run the first-team offense in practice, so Pittsburgh should not need to limit its playbook in any way.

The Steelers have won four in a row to bring themselves squarely into the AFC playoff picture. During that streak, Roethlisberger — whose early-season struggles prompted speculation about his job security — is averaging over 200 passing yards per game, has thrown six TDs, zero interceptions, and has posted a 104.6 QB rating (h/t Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network on Twitter).

Mason Rudolph Wants To Start For Steelers in 2022

The Steelers have an uncertain future under center beyond this season. Ben Roethlisberger was almost pushed out after 2020, before a restructure was worked out to bring him back for one more year.

The team hasn’t anointed a clear heir apparent, but Mason Rudolph is making it clear he wants it to be him. “That’s my goal, to be a starting quarterback in this league, and for my team,” Rudolph said Tuesday, via Brooke Pryor of (Twitter link).

Rudolph hasn’t exactly looked like a franchise quarterback during his pro starts to date, but he does have the advantage of being the only Pittsburgh signal-caller under contract for 2022 at the moment. The Steelers recently gave him a one-year extension through 2022 worth $5MM with a $2MM signing bonus.

That’s not insignificant money, so Rudolph could have a real shot at succeeding Roethlisberger. Most likely, the team just wanted to make sure they had a somewhat competent insurance option.

Rudolph received eight starts in 2019 due to Roethlisberger’s season-ending elbow injury, but was ineffective and benched a couple of times in favor of UDFA Devlin Hodges.

He was better in his lone 2020 start in Week 17 when the Steelers rested starters against the Browns, but still isn’t the most inspiring option as a full-time starter. He’ll turn 26 next month. The Steelers also have Dwayne Haskins and Joshua Dobbs on the roster for 2020.