ESPN Analyst Hints at ‘Likely’ Move With Steelers QB Mason Rudolph - Sport News

ESPN Analyst Hints at ‘Likely’ Move With Steelers QB Mason Rudolph

The Pittsburgh Steelers have publicly expressed a desire to re-sign veteran quarterback Mason Rudolph this offseason. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell argued that the Steelers will get their wish.

Mason Rudolph

While placing quarterbacks potentially available this offseason into tiers, Barnwell argued Rudolph won’t see an uptick in his market because of his 3-game winning streak to end the 2023 regular season. Barnwell then added that Rudolph will return to Pittsburgh.

“Rudolph’s brief burst of production was out of line with his prior career performance, and he is likely to re-sign with the Steelers,” wrote Barnwell on February 25.

Barnwell placed Rudolph in his “tier 6” of free agent quarterbacks. That was also the last tier of signal callers for the ESPN analyst.

Rudolph found himself essentially at the bottom of Barnwell’s free agent quarterback rankings despite posting a 3-0 record with a 74.3% completion percentage, 9.7 yards per pass and 3 touchdowns with 0 interceptions in four appearances last season.

Projecting Mason Rudolph’s NFL Free Agent Market

With quarterback becoming seemingly a bigger need for teams every offseason, especially with all the injuries at the position in 2023, it’s a little surprising Barnwell didn’t predict Rudolph to receive a little more interest on the market.

Barnwell called his sixth tier of free agent quarterbacks, “backups likely to earn a roster spot.” He described the tier as signal callers who “should be able to land spots on NFL rosters” but will have to “compete for their roster spot in camp.”

Rudolph was almost out of football a year ago, but coming off the best stretch of his career, it’s a little hard to envision him needing to earn a roster spot in the preseason.

However, Rudolph’s success did come in a small sample. He could very well be the next Joshua Dobbs, who had a lot of early success in 2023 but then struggled significantly before losing his starting job.

Barnwell also placed Dobbs in his tier 6 of quarterbacks.

Rudolph’s 2023 debut was the first time he appeared in an NFL regular season game in two years. Then he started back-to-back weeks for the first time since 2019.

Before 2023, Rudolph had a 61.5% completion percentage and averaged 6.2 yards per pass in 17 games. He also had 16 touchdowns versus 11 interceptions.

Barnwell appears to be placing more stock in those numbers from 2019-21 than his 2023 hot streak.

Rudolph’s Impact on Steelers Offseason

Regardless of the reason, the Steelers would likely love Rudolph not having much of a market in free agency. It will make him all the cheaper to re-sign.

There have been a ton of quarterback rumors flying around Pittsburgh this offseason. But the organization has publicly supported the idea of Rudolph returning to compete with Kenny Pickett for the starting role in 2024.

“We still feel good about Kenny Pickett and his future but he knows he has to work hard to take the next step,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said on January 29, via Steelers.com’s Bob Labriola.

“Mason Rudolph came in and showed what we’re capable of when we do get quality QB play … and we’re interested in bringing Mason back.”

If Rudolph is Pittsburgh’s preferred quarterback addition in free agency, then what the Steelers do the rest of the offseason likely rests on Rudolph’s decision.

Should Rudolph return, then the rumors that the Steelers could trade for Justin Fields or sign Russell Wilson should screech to a halt.

If the Steelers don’t re-sign Rudolph, that doesn’t mean their next move will be to add one of those two quarterbacks. But speculation that either could come to Pittsburgh or the idea of the Steelers drafting a quarterback is likely to continue.

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