Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger announced his retirement from the NFL on Thursday, and the team may have to get creative to fill the void at the sport's most important position.
Mason Rudolph, the Steelers' only QB under contract for 2022, hasn't proved himself as a long-term solution, and the options are limited in this year's free-agent and draft classes.
Here's a look at some of the available signal-callers:
- Free Agency: Cam Newton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota, Mitchell Trubisky, Tyrod Taylor
- 2022 NFL Draft: Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh), Matt Corral (Ole Miss), Malik Willis (Liberty), Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati), Sam Howell (UNC)
Given those options, it's fair to wonder whether the Steelers could become heavily involved in the Aaron Rodgers sweepstakes if he's traded or released by the Green Bay Packers.
Roethlisberger guided the Pittsburgh offense for 18 years. He was selected in the first round of the 2004 draft, took over the starting job early in his rookie season and provided stability under center from that point forward, highlighted by two Super Bowl titles.
The 39-year-old Ohio native wasn't the same player in recent years as his arm strength diminished and his movement slowed from his peak years, though. The Steelers reached the playoffs in his final campaign with a 9-7-1 record, but they were no longer a true title threat with him leading the offense.
Making it to the postseason despite Big Ben's fading skills was an accomplishment, and it could push the front office to make a run at Rodgers under the belief a quarterback who's still playing at an MVP level could push the franchise back toward the Super Bowl conversation.
If Rodgers stays in Green Bay or lands elsewhere, however, the situation becomes more difficult to navigate for the Steelers.
There are a couple other quarterbacks who could land on the trade block, led by the Las Vegas Raiders' Derek Carr and San Francisco 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo, if Pittsburgh wants an established veteran.
Otherwise, all of the impending free agents represent short-term stopgap options, and there's little certainty when it comes to this year's group of quarterback prospects in the draft.
Pickett is obviously the name that stands out among the draftees since he played college football at Pitt and is coming off a strong senior season (42 touchdowns and seven interceptions). It's hard to know whether he'd still be on the board at No. 20, though.
So the situation really comes down to the Steelers brass' vision of how to begin moving forward in the post-Roethlisberger era. They must decide whether they want to try to contend right away or if they are willing to take a few years to rebuild the roster around a rookie.
The answer may depend on whether Rodgers emerges as a realistic target.