What Quarterback Direction Is Best For The Pittsburgh Steelers In 2022?

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Mason Rudolph. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers QB Mason Rudolph. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers head into the 2022 offseason with a quarterback conundrum. Which direction for them is best?

As the Pittsburgh Steelers season came to a close on Sunday night in their 42-21 loss to the Chiefs, it marked the end of the Ben Roethlisberger era. An era that stretched 18 seasons, Roethlisberger became one of the legends of the franchise, winning two Super Bowls in the process and leading countless successful teams.

It’s going to be an interesting offseason for the Steelers at the quarterback position. Pittsburgh certainly would like to stay in playoff contention like they are every year, but a door is open for a mini-rebuild to get the position right, as Mike Tomlin definitely has job security. Every option is likely on the table to get the quarterback situation right for 2022. However, each direction comes with its pros and its cons. Which direction is best? Let’s look at the three.

In-House Promotion

Tomlin has talk about this already, saying that Mason Rudolph has a clear path to be the starter in 2022. Obviously, Rudolph has experience as a starter, and has been in house for several years waiting for the opportunity. With Matt Canada returning as the offensive coordinator, that continuity would suggest this is possible. Plus, Rudolph hasn’t really gotten a full season to show what he has.

However, we’ve seen Rudolph and his struggles with the Steelers already. While he’s flashed the arm strength and deep ball, there are processing issues that lead to bad footwork, and subsequently, bad accuracy. Maybe there’s still hope for development, as some prospects are late bloomers, but even without a full season, it feels like we know who Rudolph is.

The same goes for Dwayne Haskins, who reportedly will get the opportunity to compete as well. Haskins has consistently struggled with pressure and just isn’t the guy who can maneuver the pocket extremely well to buy time, as he isn’t the guy who can make plays outside of structure very often.

Continuity and keeping picks/using picks elsewhere are the draws to this, but the lack of confidence in those two from the outside will be loud throughout 2022. If it helps land a franchise guy in 2023, then so be it.

Free Agency/Trade

This seems like an avenue that the Pittsburgh Steelers will explore extensively. Obviously, the smoke surrounding Aaron Rodgers to Pittsburgh is strong, and Russell Wilson is another potentially on the move.

These feel like long shots, especially with the draft capital that will be needed to acquire either one of them. Yes, the Steelers could foot the bill, but at the expense of getting some top talent to add via the draft. Also, there’s no guarantee either would consider before some additions are made on the offensive line.

There are some budget options in free agency. Tyrod Taylor could make a ton of sense in a bridge role while either waiting to look for a guy in 2023. His deep ball accuracy is good and he provides some mobility that Canada likes in his offense. Marcus Mariota fits the mobile type, but he’s likely going to be a backup wherever he ends up. Teddy Bridgewater could be an option as well, if the Steelers want to stick with an accurate, decisive quick game passer who will keep you in games.

Likely, the big fish would be the true draw to this strategy, but Taylor would certainly be possible. However, does one of the budget guys guarantee a season much more than the Steelers had in 2021?

The 2022 NFL Draft

The last option for the Pittsburgh Steelers is, of course, the 2022 NFL Draft. It’s not a particularly strong class from a first round talent perspective, but it offers some intriguing passers with good day two value. The unfortunate part of that is due to relative scarcity, reaching in round one will likely be the way to acquire the quarterback you want.

If the Steelers are truly searching for a mobile type (or mobile enough), Sam Howell and Matt Corral are intriguing options. Corral has run a ton of RPOs and succeeded in the quick game in college, and has a sufficient arm for all three levels of the field. Howell has the velocity, deep ball accuracy, toughness, and potential to continue to grow into a polished passer.

Malik Willis is the other to watch for the Steelers. Willis is oozing with potential, possessing high end arm strength and the wow throws on tape are there. He’s a strong runner that adds that element to an offense. Processing issues and speeding up said process are what need work, as does spurts of turnover issues.

Drafting one of these guys, or a mid-round guy like a Bailey Zappe or Kaleb Eleby, gives you the Rudolph bridge with the hopes of the rookie taking over in year two.

What’s Best For The Pittsburgh Steelers?

Obviously, the best would be to land Wilson or Rodgers and build the offensive line through a big free agency signing and the draft. But if those are out, are you going to trade for Kirk Cousins or Jimmy Garoppolo? Probably not. If bringing in Taylor feels like a waste relative to the continuity Rudolph provides, then that’s out too.

The draft looks like the most viable option for the Pittsburgh Steelers. There’s going to be a franchise quarterback in this class somewhere, or even a possible starter from the middle rounds. That plus Rudolph is the (most realistic) best option available. It will be painful to watch a rookie/Rudolph in 2022, but the rebuild shouldn’t take long. Figure out if either can be the guy, and don’t be afraid to go back to the QB well in 2023.