With the draft now behind us and free agency done, for the most part, it’s time to look ahead to the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers season. For the most part, we have a good idea of who will be competing for the team’s 53 roster spots. Barring minor free agency signings (there’s not enough cap space to make any major signings) the 53 players on the final roster will come from the current 90-man roster. In this new series, we will be predicting all 53 players that will make the final roster by position. First up, quarterback.
Predicting the Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterbacks in 2020
Starter: Ben Roethlisberger
It will be a relief for Pittsburgh Steelers fans to read that. After a season that was derailed mostly by quarterback play, the team finally gets back their hall of fame quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger played just 1.5 games last year before suffering an elbow injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season. He spent the rest of the year watching inexperienced quarterbacks (for the most part; there were some bright spots) waste away a season that had a lot of potential thanks to an elite defense. Now that “Big Ben” is back and the Steelers defense is for the most part still intact, fans have high hopes heading into the 2020 season.
As of now, it’s hard to project how well Roethlisberger will perform in 2020. He just turned 38 years old last month and is coming off major elbow surgery. Historically, Roethlisberger has started seasons slowly, especially in recent years. His first game last year against the New England Patriots was terrible. He wasn’t playing well in Week 2, but turned it around and let a scoring drive before halftime that would ultimately be his last playing time of the season. So if Roethlisberger starts the season slowly, it doesn’t mean there’s reason to panic. He probably will be a little rusty, considering his age and the addition of new weapons to the Steelers offense.
If he is fully healthy, the expectation should be that Roethlisberger will play well for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team added two big targets this off-season for Roethlisberger. They signed 2018 Pro Bowl tight end Eric Ebron and used their second-round draft pick on Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool. Roethlisberger will enjoy throwing to both of these 6’4″ targets, especially in the red zone. Along with the additions, Roethlisberger will have second-year receiver Diontae Johnson to work with. Johnson played well last year even with the poor quarterback play, so he should only get better with Big Ben. And of course, Roethlisberger already has chemistry with JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Vance McDonald. All things considered, Ben Roethlisberger should be just fine in 2020.
Backup: Mason Rudolph
His 2019 season was all over the place, but Mason Rudolph will undoubtedly enter the 2020 season as the Pittsburgh Steelers backup quarterback. 2019 didn’t provide the ideal circumstances for a second-year quarterback to start his career. Rudolph was thrust into what wound up being the full-time starting role at halftime in Week 2. He played quite well in that game and in his first career start, on the road against the top-ranked San Francisco 49ers defense. Pittsburgh lost both games but neither was the fault of Rudolph. He finally got his first win at home against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 4. A concussion suffered against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5 sidelined Rudolph for the rest of that game and the next against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Watching Rudolph, it felt like he never fully recovered mentally from his concussion. He seemed to be gun shy when he returned. Too many times he progressed through his reads way too quickly, trying to get rid of the ball before the pass rush got anywhere near him. Then, of course, there was the incident with Myles Garrett later in the season. Eventually, Devlin Hodges stole the starting job from Rudolph. To Rudolph’s credit, he bounced back when he was called upon to start again in Week 16 against the New York Jets. He played arguably his best game of the year before suffering an injury and again being replaced by Hodges.
2019 was a rollercoaster ride, but Rudolph at the very least showed he is a capable backup. Ideally, he won’t get any meaningful playing time in 2020. Instead, he’ll spectate and hopefully learn a lot from Roethlisberger. Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin have both vouched for Rudolph, which insinuates he might have a chance to be the next franchise quarterback when Roethlisberger calls it quits. For now, though, Rudolph is just a backup.
Third String: Devlin Hodges
He became a fan favorite during the 2020 season, but Devlin Hodges isn’t a better quarterback than Mason Rudolph. The man they call “Duck” had a wild ride from undrafted rookie camp arm to starting quarterback by Week 6. He went 3-1 as a starting quarterback but much of that success was despite him, not because of him. Either way though, he’ll likely be the third quarterback on the Pittsburgh Steelers 53-man roster in 2020. He has experience in the system and did all that could possibly be expected of an undrafted rookie. If injuries happen again and Hodges number gets called, the team knows they won’t be a completely lost cause.
Quarterbacks on the current 90-man roster who don’t make the cut: Paxton Lynch, J.T. Barrett