With rumors swirling about the Steelers addressing the QB position, a look at the team makes adding a QB difficult to accomplish.
The Steelers don’t need QB, period, end of the story. No matter how many “better options” and “future franchise players” are just sitting out there waiting for the Steelers to call, QB makes little sense this offseason. Even if the Steelers had the cap space or the draft capital to make a serious move at the position (they don’t), the need simply isn’t there for them.
Yes, the Steelers are coming off a disappointing 8-8 season where the QB play after Ben Roethlisberger’s injury was inconsistent and was the primary reason this team didn’t make the playoffs. That said, having Roethlisberger be down for, essentially, the entire season is an anomaly, and not what should be prepared for each year. People are putting the backup QB on too high of a pedestal.
Realistically, you should be able to judge a backup by what their expected record would be if they played three games. If that player would go 3-0, he is a great backup who could likely start somewhere (think Ryan Fitzpatrick). 2-1 is an above-average backup (think Colt McCoy). 1-2 is an average backup that could be improved upon. 0-3 means you need an upgrade.
A backup is in that position for a reason: they weren’t good enough to start. Thus, they shouldn’t be counted on to be a fulltime starter, and if that situation does unfold (as it did last year), expectations for the team need to be dimmed. If you have to play a backup every year for the majority of games, you don’t have a backup issue, you have a starter issue.
Looking back to the Steelers now, their prime two candidates to be backups are Mason Rudolph (5-3 as a starter last year) and Devlin “Duck” Hodges (3-3 as a starter). While both had their ups and downs last year, it’s safe to say both would easily be expected to go 1-2 and more than likely (at least for Rudolph), would go 2-1. In terms of what you look for in a backup, both of these guys have it.
Even if the team did want to add a veteran to the locker room, the fanbase has overblown the type of player that would be brought in. People are drooling over the idea of Jameis Winston or Cam Newton coming to Pittsburgh as backups, but the issue is neither of them would. Both would be signed as backups (meaning they would go into next season with no chance to start). As well, they wouldn’t come cheap. Marcus Mariota signed a deal to backup/replace Derek Carr in Las Vegas for 8.8 million a season. Considering both Winston and Newton are better than Mariota, their AAV would likely be in the 20 million range at the minimum (Winston’s market value according to Spotrac is 26.7 million).
Even average backups get decent money, with the prime example being Chase Daniel. Daniel, who recently signed a 3-year 13-million-dollar contract, has attempted 218 passes throughout five starts (2-3 record). If the Steelers wanted to add a free agent QB, it would have to be in the bargain bins, with names like Geno Smith and Trevor Siemian being the top names. At that point though, how much better would one of those options be over Rudolph?
Then comes the draft, where fans are clamoring to use the second-round pick on a QB to find Roethlisberger’s successor, with options like Jake Fromm, Jacob Eason, and Jalen Hurts topping the list of candidates that could be there. All of those guys have their share of flaws though (if they didn’t, they would be first-round picks). To think that one of those guys (or frankly any realistic rookie) would be able to come in and do a better job than Rudolph as a backup is asinine. If you throw any of those above options into the situation Rudolph was in last year, you would see, at the very best, the same results.
It is argued that the Steelers need to find their future starter this year, which would warrant using a draft pick on the position. While it is still unknown if Rudolph will ever be “the guy”, it’s safe to say that drafting QB’s outside of round 1 is a large gamble. For the most part, due to the value teams put on the position, a starting QB is going to be selected in the first round and the Steelers should target their future QB when they have the right draft picks for it (say, 2021). Taking a guy in the second round will have a similar career trajectory to Rudolph.
While in an ideal world adding a better backup QB would be nice, it is far from a need this offseason. With the team low on draft picks and cap space, finding a better reserve QB seems like a luxury the Steelers can’t afford. As well, the combination of Rudolph and Hodges went 8-8 last season, a respectable record considering the Steelers were without their starter. The team seems content with their backups, and it would be a shocker to see a significant change to the room before training camp.