Joe Starkey: Rating the Steelers' quarterback options, from Mason Rudolph to Justin Fields and Russell Wilson

Joe Starkey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Football

PITTSBURGH — First of all, I’m not at all convinced that Mike Tomlin wants a quarterback “competition.” I wonder if he’s more interested in insulating Kenny Pickett by signing a non-threatening vet such as Ryan Tannehill.

I’m also not sure what a legitimate training camp competition even looks like.

Is there such a thing?

If one guy struggles against the first-team defense and the other guy repeatedly beats Luc Barcoo and Josiah Scott with perfect throws to Duece Watts and Denzel Mims, does the other guy win the day? I tend to believe it’s more like your average spring training competition in baseball, which is to say, the team already has the winner picked but pretends that isn’t the case for a month.

Tomlin’s idea of a quarterback “competition” two years ago was telling the world it was wide open among Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph and Kenny Pickett while doing a terrible job of hiding the fact it was going to be Trubisky even if he played like Mitch Trubisky.

He actually played better than that — but not for long, as they say.


And while we’re at it, how can we trust Tomlin to judge a quarterback competition given his recent history of doubling and tripling down on Mediocre Mitch, sticking with him through thin and thin? (And this is coming from a one-time member of the Mitchell Trubisky Fan Club). It was almost as baffling as his undying loyalty to overmatched offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

Anyway, I’m betting the Steelers want to avoid the conflagration of a quarterback controversy that Mason Rudolph would set off the minute he returned. They know Rudolph already has supporters in the locker room and apparently in the front office. I’m betting they want to protect Pickett from that scenario, although I could be wrong (hey, I thought Trubisky would be good).

With all that in mind, everybody from Joe Flacco to Joe Montana has been rumored to be coming to Pittsburgh. Let’s assume the Steelers do not draft a quarterback highly, and let’s take a closer look at some of the possibilities here, rating each on an excitement scale of 1 to 5 …

— MASON RUDOLPH: The Steelers have said they want him back, but are they chasing him with an aggressive offer he cannot refuse? I liked what Rudolph did late last season. He surprised me. He might be better than Pickett. But the sample size remains minuscule — and he’s not the guy long term.


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