Shortly after the Pittsburgh Steelers Wild Card loss against the Buffalo Bills that knocked them out of the NFL Playoffs, Mike Tomlin held his season wrap-up press conference. Tomlin addressed a range of topics and fielded numerous questions. Some of the biggest had to do with the plans at the quarterback position.
When asked if he believed the starting quarterback is already on the 2024 roster, Tomlin wasted no time in answering, "Yes." Tomlin went on to give a glowing endorsement for QB Kenny Pickett and believes that Year 3 will be a big year for him.
The Steelers head coach also praised Mason Rudolph for his preparedness and what he was able to do late in the season when called upon. Additionally, Tomlin confirmed that quarterback competition will be brought in this offseason.
Based on the comments from Mike Tomlin himself during his post-season press conference, it certainly feels like Mason Rudolph is once again the odd man out, and it doesn't make sense to bring him back.
Steelers create more issues if they bring back Mason Rudolph
It's unclear what type of competition the Steelers will bring in at quarterback, and Tomlin didn't dare speculate. However, just doing some simple math, we can already see that somebody is going to get a demotion if Mason Rudolph returns in 2024.
Mitch Trubisky is going to be gone. There's no question about that. After abysmal play late in the season, the veteran is sure to be cut early in the offseason. This opens the door for another quarterback to join the QB room -- one who can put up more of a fight than Trubisky did.
If this team is serious about improving the position, we can assume that the player they bring in will be guaranteed to make the roster. This could come in the form of a proven veteran like Gardner Minshew or Jacoby Brissett, or a young journeyman like Sam Darnold. It's also entirely possible that this QB competition could come through the 2024 NFL Draft -- possibly as a Day 2 selection.
Whichever route the front office chooses to go, there won't be room for Rudolph... that is, unless he wants to go back to holding a clipboard on game day as the reserve QB3.
The Steelers aren't giving this demotion to Kenny Pickett, their former first-round pick -- certainly not after the praises Tomlin just spoke of him. Coach 'T' made it clear that he believes Pickett is their man for the job in 2024.
Therefore, if the Steelers bring in a proven quality backup (a la Brissett), where does that leave Rudolph? Though Rudolph proved to be the most efficient QB on Pittsburgh's roster in 2023 (albeit, for a brief sample), he still didn't find himself in a position to see the field until an injury to Pickett and awful play from Trubisky.
Mason Rudolph showcased enough late in the year and even in the Wild Card game against the Bills to be a surefire QB2 elsewhere next season. What incentive would the pending free agent have to re-sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers knowing that his best-case scenario is to be the QB2?
It just doesn't make sense for the Steelers to pay Rudolph backup money if they are planning on bringing in more quarterback competition, and Rudolph shouldn't stick around to see what happens.