With head coach Mike Tomlin reaffirming his commitment to the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 2024 NFL season on Tuesday, one of the big questions of the offseason has already been answered. Now the next priority will be figuring out the quarterback position. After all, it’s the most important position in football, and the Steelers can’t be sure they’ve got the answer at the position.
On Tuesday’s episode of NFL Live on ESPN, former NFL QB and analyst Dan Orlovsky weighed in with his thoughts on how the Steelers should address their need for a top quarterback.
“The number one call should be to Chicago, and you’re trying to see where they stand with Justin Fields, if they’re going to take somebody at number one or keep him,” Orlovsky said. “The second call would be to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I don’t think Baker Mayfield is going to leave them, considering they’re in the Divisional Round playoffs, but I would make that my second call. My third call would be to the Vikings. ‘Where do you stand on Kirk Cousins?’”
If anyone had heard Orlovsky talking like this prior to the start of the 2023 NFL season, they probably would have thought he was out of his mind. Second-year QB Kenny Pickett had shown some promise during his rookie season and then delivered a great preseason, leading the first-team offense to five touchdowns in five drives. Then, during the regular season, he was able to keep his fourth-quarter magic going with three more game-winning drives, but he only threw for six touchdowns over the course of 12 games.
When Pickett went down with an injury, Mitchell Trubisky stepped in and failed to inject any sort of confidence into the offense. So then came Mason Rudolph who led the Steelers to wins in the team’s final three games and a playoff berth. In all, Rudolph threw for five touchdowns in four starts.
However, none of the three quarterbacks on the roster as of the end of the 2023 season make anyone confident. Hence the desire to reach out about some possible moves. There’s the unproven young quarterback who has shown flashes in Fields, the former first-overall pick who is leading a different team on a deep playoff run in Mayfield, and the older veteran in Cousins. There’s no question the Steelers need an infusion of talent at the position, but does that mean that the team should be giving up on Pickett?
“You can’t go into the next season with just Kenny Pickett,” Orlovsky said. “Do I think that Kenny Pickett should be given the chance to compete for the job? Sure do.”
What about Rudolph, though? Should he get a shot as well? After all, he had arguably the best performances out of any quarterback this season. Former Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger said that Rudolph should get that shot on his Footbahlin podcast livestream during the Bills-Steelers Wild Card game.
Regardless of who comes back and who comes in for the 2024 season, the Steelers need to get their offense performing at a much higher level if they want to return to contention. According to Orlovsky, the next step is “to figure out who’s gonna be their offensive coordinator.” That will be a vital hire for whoever is participating in the quarterback competition, whether that’s the incumbents, NFL veterans, or draft picks.