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The Pittsburgh Steelers will likely be on the search for a new quarterback this offseason.
Although the Steelers are coming off a playoff campaign in 2021, they’ll be forced to fill the void left by the 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger is expected to call it a career after 18 seasons in Pittsburgh.
That means the Steelers will have a permanent starting quarterback other than Roethlisberger for the first time since the 2003 season.
The Steelers could go a number of routes as they search for their next franchise quarterback. While they could very well go with a quarterback in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft — they hold the No. 20 overall pick — the Steelers could also go the more dependable route of acquiring a veteran quarterback.
According to Pro Football Network’s Dallas Robinson, the Steelers could target San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Although Garoppolo has led the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game and also led San Francisco to the Super Bowl at the end of the 2019 season, the 49ers seem set on entering next season with No. 3 overall draft pick Trey Lance as their starting quarterback.
That would open up the door for the Steelers to possibly acquire the 30-year-old quarterback.
“With Ben Roethlisberger likely heading for retirement, the Steelers are searching for his heir apparent,” says Robinson. “Some reports have indicated Mason Rudolph is likely to take over the starting role, but that doesn’t sound like a good idea. We’ve seen Rudolph before, specifically in 2019, when he averaged only 5.7 adjusted yards per attempt. He was even replaced by Devlin “Duck” Hodges at times, who isn’t in the NFL anymore.
Departing general manager Kevin Colbert said former Washington first-round pick Dwayne Haskins would also have the opportunity to compete for the No. 1 QB job. But I have a hard time believing the Steelers won’t add another passer. Pittsburgh has the pieces on both offense and defense to contend in the AFC — they just need competent play under center. Garoppolo would give them that, and with $41 million in cap space, the Steelers could easily afford him.”
Rudolph and Haskins Will Have Their Chance
As Robinson mentions, the Steelers are saying the right things publicly when it comes to a possible quarterback competition between Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins.
“Both guys have had their moments, but they’ll have to prove that, not only in the team development process, but through playing itself,” Tomlin told reporters last week. “They are guys that started – I wouldn’t characterize them as everyday starters – and so they’ll be given an opportunity to establish themselves.
“There’s going to be a competition. There always is, but I think both guys have positioned themselves to fight that fight with what they’ve done from a work standpoint and a professionalism standpoint in 2021.”
The Steelers won’t enter the 2022 season with just those two battling it out for the starting job. Rudolph has proven to be inconsistent in his chances as a starter, even once being replaced by the undrafted Devlin Hodges as the starting quarterback back in 2019.
In the case of Haskins, he was released before the conclusion of his second season with the Washington Football Team as a first-round draft pick. While he’s made a good impression since he was signed by the Steelers in January of 2021, he also failed to beat out Rudolph for the backup job in training camp.
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Why Garoppolo Makes Sense for Steelers
For as much as people like to criticize Garoppolo, he has proven to be a winner during his career as a starter. When he’s not injured, the veteran quarterback has amassed a 33-14 overall record. In his lone two seasons as a full-time starter, he’s led his teams to at least an NFC Championship Game appearance (with a chance at another Super Bowl this year).
Garoppolo will also have a bargain contract for the upcoming 2022 season. He holds a $24.2 million base salary and with incentives can reach a maximum total of $26.9 million. For perspective, Garoppolo will be the 11th-highest paid quarterback in the league next season.
With just one year left on his contract, he could be acquired as a short-term rental. If the Steelers want to sign him to an extension, while adding void years to his deal, they could do that too.
He may not be the most popular option for the Steelers, but Garoppolo could be acquired on the cheap by a team looking to move on from him.