Following franchiser Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement from the Pittsburgh Steelers, these last few months have had Steelers’ fans up in arms about who will be their next starting quarterback.
“Will the Steelers trust Ben’s backup Mason Rudolph to take the reins, or will free agency allow management to bring in someone new? Maybe we’ll resort to the draft in April and pick a new starter like Kenny Pickett from the University of Pittsburgh or Malik Willis from Liberty University.”
Those are just a few thoughts that went through my mind over the last few months.
Originally, I was on the Kenny Pickett train and wanted to start from scratch but I’ve realized that’s not where we needed to start. Don’t get me wrong, it would be awesome to have that guy as our QB, but a lot needed fixing both offensively and defensively. Our offensive line lost Maurkice Pouncey to retirement and David DeCastro to a knee injury at the end of the 2020-21 season so right there were two big losses. We were forced to go with guys who have yet to grow into their spot on the team, but hopefully will soon enough. The same goes for defense. Our defense wasn’t terrible last year but it definitely needed a few repairs.
GM Kevin Colbert, who will be retiring after the draft, knew he needed to leave this team in good hands and he made several free agent splashes in order to do so. He signed former Bears QB Mitch Trubisky after serving as Josh Allen’s backup on the Buffalo Bills last season. Trubisky was a no. 2 selection by Chicago in the 2017 NFL Draft. In addition to signing the 27-year-old, who is 29-21 in his NFL career, to a two-year contract worth $14 million, Colbert signed guard James Daniels, who played with Trubisky in Chicago, cornerback Levi Wallace from the Bills, appropriately named wide receiver and return specialist Gunner Olszewski, center Mason Cole from the Vikings and what I believe to be the best signing of all: outside linebacker from the Jaguars, Myles Jack. I, along with many other Steelers fans, were over the moon about that signing. I’m certain he will prove a strong addition to our defense. That being said, I definitely feel we’ve taken a step in the right direction to rebuilding our offense and adding to our defense. However, I’m on the fence about whether that would’ve helped Mason Rudolph succeed much had he been named the starter.
Do I think Rudolph should have a chance at being starter? Possibly, if things don’t pan out with Trubisky. I think that Rudolph can work his way up to be a sound starter but it may take a while. I think the problem people have when it comes to who they want our next quarterback is that their judgment is clouded by past quarterbacks. They want another Ben Roethlisberger. They want someone to be drafted and become a franchise player who is almost guaranteed success and knowing myself and most Pittsburgh fans, we don’t like to wait. We want to win now. However, guys as talented as Ben Roethlisberger don’t grow on trees. Steelers’ fans, I’m sure, found themselves in a similar situation when Terry Bradshaw retired in 1983. Between then and 2004, the Steelers had numerous quarterbacks, including Neil O’Donnell, Bubby Brister, Tommy Maddox and Kordell Stewart. It took 21 years to find another quarterback who could live up to Bradshaw’s potential.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but Rudolph will never come close to the kind of player Ben Roethlisberger was. Let me first say that I know Rudolph has some form of talent. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have been drafted. There were even times I wanted him to play over Ben. That being said, there are a lot of factors that play into this statement. First, the talent that Ben had is a special kind of talent you’re born with, not one you learn. It also has to do with what has gone on behind the scenes. Even if we forget the fact that Rudolph has only played 17 NFL games, there’s more to the story that the Steelers have let on. If you don’t know by now, Ben Roethlisberger was not a fan of Rudolph’s. He was not thrilled when the Steelers drafted Rudolph out of Oklahoma State in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft and in turn, he isolated himself from Rudolph. He didn’t communicate much with him, didn’t try to teach him or prepare him if he would be starting. So now you’ve got this quarterback who is wise beyond his years not only refusing to help this poor rookie but also refusing to help his franchise out should they go with him after his retirement.
Having success in the NFL as a quarterback is more than just the talent you’re born with and in turn, winning a Super Bowl championship is about more than just who is your starting quarterback is. It takes a whole team to get to the Super Bowl. We had three Super Bowl appearances and two wins with Big Ben but he wasn’t the sole reason we got there in the first place. We had stacked talent on our offense, such as running back Jerome Bettis, wide receiver Hines Ward, tight end Heath Miller, and center Maurkice Pouncey. In addition to a phenomenal offense, we also had a solid defense with guys like Casey Hampton, James Farrior, Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel, James Harrison, and of course my personal favorite, Troy Polamalu. As the saying goes, it takes a village.
The Steelers have been surrounded by off-season rumors of who could be the starting quarterback. Names like Deshaun Watson, Jimmy Garoppolo and even Aaron Rodgers were being thrown around. I won’t lie, all three of those names are tempting to me in some way, but you could’ve started any one of those guys and still have the possibility of missing the playoffs. Let’s also not forget the price those guys come at. Sure, it was tempting to go after Aaron Rodgers but he wanted a big payday and so would the Packers if they had to give him up. That is cap space and draft picks that you’re going to want to keep for the long haul. It’s wiser to go out and get a guy with reasonable talent like Trubisky and not have to pay much for him and if it blows up in our face, at least we used those draft picks to rebuild our team both offensively and defensively.
I say give Trubisky a shot with this team. It’s not the same team we had last year, given the numerous free agent signings we made. I really think he will surprise people this season and I’m truly excited to see what he will do here.