Steelers' Mike Tomlin: All Options on Table to Find QB to Succeed Ben Roethlisberger

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 18, 2022

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - DECEMBER 05: Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during pregame warm-ups prior to the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field on December 05, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

While Ben Roethlisberger hasn't officially retired, the Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into the offseason with an open mind at the quarterback position.

Head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters Tuesday that "all options are on the table." He added that Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins will both be afforded an opportunity to win the starting job.

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Tomlin on QB: "Right now, all options are on the table," when it comes to adding a veteran QB or rookie.

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Tomlin said <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Steelers?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Steelers</a> are operating under assumption Big Ben will retire. Asked if Rudolph or Haskins are in line, Tomlin said: “They’ll have to prove that. And not only in the team development process but through playing. They’ll be given an oppty to establish themselves.”

"I'm excited about that challenge," Tomlin said. "Those of us that are competitors are. It's a challenge. It makes you uneasy."

An external candidate might be the likeliest solution because neither Rudolph nor Haskins has proved himself as an NFL starter.

Rudolph had an audition in 2019, when Roethlisberger was limited to two games. He threw for 1,765 yards, 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 10 appearances.

The Washington Football Team released Haskins toward the end of his second season, a telling move considering the franchise selected him in the first round of the 2019 draft. In 16 appearances, Haskins has thrown for 2,804 yards, 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Pittsburgh is projected to have $42.7 million in salary-cap space for 2022, per Spotrac, but a portion of that money will inevitably be earmarked for re-signing some of its free agents. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Trai Turner, Joe Haden and Terrell Edmunds are among the notable veterans hitting the open market.

General manager Kevin Colbert might be able to carve out enough money to pursue a veteran signal-caller such as Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson or Aaron Rodgers in a trade.

Of course, Colbert might not be there when the final decision is made. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported the 65-year-old is planning to step down once his contract expires following the 2022 draft.

Rapoport followed up Sunday to report Colbert is likely to leave a parting gift in the form of a rookie quarterback:

"With so much of the offseason league-wide focus on big-time trades for veteran QBs, it would be un-Steelers-like to see Colbert package several first-rounders to attempt to trade for Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson, as one source explained.
"The organization has thrived by drafting and developing, and selling the future for a veteran QB is not likely in the playbook. While acknowledging that anything is possible, those who know Colbert well describe it as highly unlikely."

The Steelers will have the No. 20 pick. 

The incoming draft class lacks a top-end quarterback prospect, but the position's value could mean the best options come off the board relatively early.

In Bleacher Report's mock draft, Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder (No. 9) and Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett (No. 11) are gone by the time the Steelers' selection comes around. Rather than a QB, they're projected to select Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning.