PITTSBURGH – With Ben Roethlisberger retired, a quarterback job at the Pittsburgh Steelers is officially ready.
On Monday, outgoing General Manager Kevin Colbert gave the former support Mason Rudolph A vote of confidence.
“If we start a season today, Mason will be the start, and we’re excited to see where that could go,” Colbert said at his annual presence with local media before the NFL combines. “Mason is 5-4-1 as a rookie in the NFL, albeit in a backup role, but we’re excited to see what’s next for Mason.”
Rudolph started one game for the Steelers in 2021, an 11-hour decision after Roethlisberger tested positive for COVID-19 the day before their week nine game against the Detroit Lions. Rudolph completed 30 of 50 attempts for 242 yards with one touchdown and one interception in a game that ended in a draw. In 2019, Rudolph started eight games after injuring Roethlisberger’s elbow at the end of the season. It’s been a tumultuous season for the midfield at the time in the second year in which he finished 62% of his attempts with 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
But the Steelers invested in Rudolph’s development, hiring Matt Canada as quarterback coach for the following season. After Canada was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2021, the team brought in esteemed quarterback coach Mike Sullivan to work with the group.
“I’m relieved that Mason won more games than he initially lost,” Colbert said. “Where that can go, we’ll see. To be a key player in the NFL you can win, you have to prove that over 16 games. I’m excited to see that, if that’s the case.”
Rudolph, who is entering his fifth year with the organization, is the only player on the list currently under contract for the 2022 season, but Colbert added that he expects the team will bid earlier in the first round. Dwayne Haskinswho spent most of 2021 as a quarterback for the scouting team.
“We are excited to see what Dwayne can offer either from the competition, or perhaps developing as a rookie,” Colbert said.
But the Steelers don’t stop there.
“We know we’re going to add to the situation,” Colbert said. “I can’t tell you how, but at this point we’re going to camp with four.”
With two ostensible sites to take over, Colbert, Art Rooney II, and Mike Tomlin discussed all possible avenues to add to the collection. The team can choose their quarterback with their overall 20 pick, or they can explore the free agency and the commercial market.
“Recruitment category of quarterbacks, there is good quality available – maybe not as many as it has been in recent years, but it is what it is,” Colbert said.
The Steelers took a closer look at some of those prospects in the Senior Bowl, including Liberty Malik Willis and North Carolina Sam Howell. Colbert also kept an eye on the midfielder’s house Kenny Becketttaking a front row seat to the Heisman season finalist from the facilities shared by the Steelers and Pitt.
“This group has good players,” Colbert said. “And there are good players who all have different skills. That was what was really unique in watching them compete in the Senior Bowl, because the majority of them have been there, and they are all different. I know some of them are going to start quarterbacks, quarterbacks win, and that’s exciting.”
The top priority for Colbert – and the team – in this off-season is to find a plan beyond Roethlisberger at quarterback, but the Steelers also have to replace Colbert. The longtime general manager is stepping down from the April NFL draft. Colbert told Tomlin and Rooney II that 2021 will be his last season as general manager in May 2021, but he may remain around the organization in another role, he said.
“It’s time, I think, from a personal point of view, and I think it’s time from a professional point of view,” Colbert said. “We always have to be open to new ways of doing things and more modern ways of doing things, quite honestly. I encourage younger scouts to push me in this regard, but the best solution might be outside the organisation. We don’t ‘I don’t know, but I’m just thinking’ Personally, sure, it’s time, but even from the professional side, we have to be open to trying to stay ahead.”
To find Colbert’s replacement, Colbert and Rooney II interview the candidates. The first round of interviews will take place by early March, with the second round expected to be completed after the NFL draft. Tomlin is now involved in the process, but Colbert said the head coach will have a bigger role in determining the next general manager after the draft.
So far, the Steelers have interviewed seven external candidates for the position along with two internal prospects, Omar Khan and Brandon Hunt.
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