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Pittsburgh Steelers ‘reluctant’ to make Mason Rudolph trade, multiple teams interested

Matt Johnson

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback room is one of the deepest in the NFL, headlined by 2022 first-round pick Kenny Pickett and former No. 2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky. With the two signal-callers battling for the starting spot in Week 1, it’s created some uncertainty regarding the future of Mason Rudolph.

Rudolph, a third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, has the most experience with the Steelers’ coaching staff and they know what they have in the 6-foot-5 quarterback. He played in eight games during the 2019 season and has started at least one game in each of the last three seasons.

  • Mason Rudolph stats (career): 5-4-1 record, 61.5% completion rate, 16-11 TD-INT ratio, 80.9 passer rating

While Pittsburgh provided the former Oklahoma State quarterback with an opportunity to compete for the starting job in training camp, it was always going to be a duel between Trubisky and Pickett. With the rookie passer now surpassing Rudolph on the depth chart, the Steelers’ organization faces a decision.

Teams aren’t keeping three quarterbacks as often as they used to on a 53-man roster, opting to either stash a third-string quarterback on the practice squad or just signing one if there’s an emergency. However, Pittsburgh’s history with Rudolph and the organization’s trust in him complicates the decision.

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Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Friday that the Steelers are open to dealing Rudolph if the right offer becomes available. Moving him via trade would open up a roster spot to provide depth at a more crucial position or it could bring back a player who would play a bigger role in 2022. With several teams around the league seeking to improve their quarterback room, Rudolph was a worthwhile name for the Steelers to float around the league.

While Pittsburgh is receiving calls, per Tom Pelissero, the organization is reluctant to trade its third-string quarterback right now. He’s on a reasonable salary considering his talent level and experience in the system, making him far too valuable for the Steelers to just give away.

  • Mason Rudolph contract: $3 million base salary, $4.04 million cap hit in 2022

Why the Pittsburgh Steelers will likely keep Mason Rudolph

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The consensus evaluation of Rudolph is that he’s a viable backup quarterback who can at least be steady as a fill-in starter for a few games. While the Steelers likely reached for him with the 76th pick in 2018, he has always been a player the organization was higher on than most.

It became evident to Pittsburgh during the 2019 season that Rudolph isn’t a starting-caliber quarterback. While he completed 62.2% of his pass attempts that year and posted a 5-3 record, it came with an alarming 36.2 QBR and he averaged just 6.2 yards per attempt.

Related: Kenny Pickett making ‘late push’ for Pittsburgh Steelers starting QB job

While there is certainly interest in him from multiple NFL teams, context matters. He’s a cheap backup quarterback and that is what makes him worth something, but other clubs want to see if Pittsburgh will keep three quarterbacks on its 53-man roster.

It’s also important to consider the potential return via trade and what teams might offer. The Minnesota Vikings traded a 2024 seventh-round pick for Nick Mullens on Aug. 22, meaning Rudolph likely wouldn’t net anything more than a 2023 sixth-round pick in return.

If that’s all the Steelers are going to receive, a draft pick a year out that will be used on a player who realistically might not make the roster, its high regard for Rudolph might stand in the way of a trade.