Coach Mike Tomlin has opted to make a change at quarterback, benching Mitch Trubisky in favour of Mason Rudolph ahead of the Steelers Week 16 matchup against the Bengals. This move primarily stems from concerns regarding the team’s offensive consistency and lack of scoring prowess. Tomlin expressed dissatisfaction with the offense’s productivity, which has been a lingering issue throughout the season.
While Tomlin didn’t entirely attribute the team’s struggles to Trubisky, the decision to start Rudolph is more about providing Rudolph an opportunity to alter the team’s trajectory and generate improved performances.
Rudolph, in his sixth season with the Steelers since being drafted in 2018, will take over as the starting quarterback. Despite not having started since 2021 and not securing a win since 2019, Tomlin emphasized Rudolph’s readiness and familiarity with the team. He referred to Rudolph as a seasoned veteran within the system, offering a sense of comfort in this decision.
Tomlin has also indicated that Kenny Pickett, the Steelers’ second-year quarterback and initially the top backup behind Trubisky, might still have an opportunity to return. However, Pickett’s recent ankle injury has hindered his availability for the immediate future.
Kenny Pickett sustained an ankle injury during the Steelers’ game against the Cardinals. Following the injury, Pickett underwent minor surgery and has already missed a couple of weeks of action. There remains a possibility of his return soon, but it’s uncertain if he’ll be ready for the Steelers-Bengals game.
Mason Rudolph is currently playing on a one-year contract worth $1.08 million that he signed during the 2023 NFL offseason. This contract was offered to retain Rudolph as a third-string option, but his performance could potentially elevate his role within the team.
In contrast, Mitch Trubisky has three years remaining on his contract. His initial two-year deal from the 2022 offseason was extended for an additional two years over the summer. The remaining money on Trubisky’s contract beyond 2023 amounts to a potential $11.25 million over two seasons.
The decision to switch quarterbacks appears driven by the team’s offensive struggles and the desire for a change in performance. Rudolph’s experience within the Steelers’ system provides a level of comfort for the coaching staff amid ongoing concerns regarding the offence’s productivity.
Indeed, the Steelers have a relatively manageable dead-cap situation if they decide to part ways with Mitch Trubisky after the 2023 season. With only $4.33 million in dead-cap space associated with Trubisky’s contract, the team could release or trade him without incurring a significant financial burden.
Should Mason Rudolph outperform Trubisky and secure a more prominent role as the team’s quarterback, it could potentially pave the way for Trubisky to seek opportunities elsewhere in the NFL during the following season.
Furthermore, Trubisky’s poor performance or inability to meet expectations might make him a candidate for a cap casualty even if he remains with the Steelers. If the team deems his performance subpar and believes his contract isn’t justifiable based on his on-field contributions, they might consider releasing him to alleviate their salary cap situation.
The flexibility in the contract and the relatively low dead-cap hit for the Steelers after the 2023 season afford them options regarding Trubisky’s future with the team, based on his performance and their overall strategy for the roster and salary cap management.