QB1 and QBwho?

As Pittsburgh Steeler’s Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is nearing the end of his career, who will be the Steelers’ backup QB in 2021?


Caitlyn Epes/Pittsburgh Steelers

Amongst Steeler Nation, Mason Rudolph ranks high as next quarterback choice.

Nolan Collery, Staff Writer

The Pittsburgh Steelers — one of the National Football League’s most historically dominant teams. The City of Champions has always fostered a lineup that the rest of the league has feared. From the unbreakable ‘Steel Curtain’ defense of the 1970s to the ‘Killers Bees’ potent offensive power of the mid-2010s, the Steelers’ secret weapon has always been the same: stability.

The Steel Sustainability of the men who wear black and gold has always had three pillars to rest upon: coaching, defense, and quarterback play. Right now, the Black and Gold boast a top-tier, one-day Hall of Fame coach Mike Tomlin, as well as an elite defensive unit. But currently, quarterback play is under question. 

Boasting top players Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers have had two Hall of Fame signal callers in their existence. Although Big Ben is still playing, the 17-year veteran from the legendary 2004 draft class is sure to make it in. The Steelers also have had a long history of backup quarterbacks who have stolen the hearts of fans, such as Landry Jones and Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges. 

However, for the team with the Steel Stability, it is now time for some questions to be answered. Mike Tomlin is sure to have another great season at the helm, and the Steelers D looks as unstoppable as ever. But it may be time for the fans of Steeler Nation to start inquiring about the QB situation. 

Despite many negative opinions about him, no one can deny the greatness of Roethlisberger’s career. Since 2004, Big Ben has won 67% of his starts, thrown nearly 400 touchdown passes to his 201 interceptions, won two Super Bowls, and visited the Pro Bowl six times. There is no question that Ben has been great for the city. 

However, it would be negligent of fans to not look to the future. Ben is 39, played 17 seasons of football, and had elbow surgery just two short years ago. It is time to realize the Big Ben era is coming to an end. 

In the NFL, every team is required to dress two quarterbacks every game, but the average team dresses four. The Steelers are starting Big Ben once again, but there still remains the rest of the depth chart, and one burning question: 

Who will be the Steelers’ backup QB in 2021?

The Steelers are headed into the regular season with three men in the running: Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins, and Josh Dobbs. But who is the best fit for the job?

Mason Rudolph: Drafted in 2018, the Oklahoma State product is the only QB in Pittsburgh who has started in the regular season with the team. Amidst Roethlisberger’s 2019 injury, Rudolph was given the reins, starting eight games before an injury ended his season. In his time at the wheel, Rudolph was mediocre at best. 

To his benefit, he boasts a solid 5-3 record as a starter, though this data was definitely assisted by a dominant defensive unit. Looking at statistics, Rudolph’s season looks far worse than his wins column would imply. Rudolph was below average in completion percentage, yards gained per attempt, yards per game, and quarterback ranking. Rudolph’s 13 touchdowns to 9 interceptions is a horrid ratio for eight starts, which placed him as the 36th best quarterback in the NFL in 2019. 

The Steeler’s air attack was one short of being the worst in the league, and much of that blame needs to be put on Mason. Yet, despite past failures, Mason doesn’t bring any surprises and he is showing signs of growth every year. Of all the positives that Mason Rudolph boasts, the strongest must be his ability to be consistent. 

Dwayne Haskins is the youngest member of the Steelers QB room, drafted with the 15th overall pick by the Washington Football Team in 2019. Haskins officially became the Football Team’s starter in week nine. Haskins would then start 13 total games through the end of 2020. Saying he was abysmal would be an understatement. 

Not only was Haskins below league average in almost every measurable stat, but he also showed an extreme lack of discipline off the field. Despite his atrocious play, Haskins found himself unemployed due to multiple violations of team protocols. Haskins became known for his lack of work effort and inability to listen to coaches and the WFT staff. Haskins was ultimately released in December of 2020 due to images of him partying maskless in a club. 

Picked up a month later by the Steelers, Haskins had a strong start to training camp, giving an impression that he had changed off the field. His play on the field, however, felt familiar. Haskins showed moments of brilliance, dropping a beautiful pass right to the hands of a receiver and then immediately rifling a pass 10 yards into the sideline. Haskins is definitely a project with high potential, but is it the type of drama the Steelers need?

Joshua Dobbs is likely more known for being an aerospace engineer than his play on both the Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars. Of the three quarterbacks fighting for the job, Dobbs has the least experience playing in the regular season. In six games since 2018, Dobbs has never started, never thrown a touchdown, and likely never will. 

That being said, Dobbs has solidified himself in the long line of beloved Steelers backup QBs. Dobbs is always cheered on in his rare appearances by the Black and Gold faithful, but honestly, he has no chance for this position. 

Realistically, the Steelers have two choices: Rudolph and Haskins. Many people in the City of Steel are tired of Rudolph’s underwhelming performance and think Haskins is the way. However, Rudolph is the man for the job. Rudolph definitely leaves much to be desired at the QB position, but he beats Haskins in what this team needs most — consistency. 

Maybe one day Haskins will live up to his potential and be the Steelers’ QB of the future. However, he is not yet ready. After a terrible performance in the preseason against the Bills and an injury to Dobbs, it looks like the Steelers are going to give the backup position to Rudolph.  Most likely, the Steelers’ future leader will come from another place. But right now, the Steelers cannot rely on occasional flashes of greatness from Haskins.

There is only one option. Rely on Roethlisberger for now, and let Rudolph handle QB2.