First Call: Ben Roethlisberger thinks Mason Rudolph should compete for starting job; ESPN has 3 other Steelers QB ideas

In Wednesday’s “First Call,” Ben Roethlisberger endorses the idea of giving Mason Rudolph a chance to start at quarterback next year in Pittsburgh. An ESPN analyst has other ideas for the Steelers to pursue. The Browns are making major changes.

And Robert Morris looks to avoid a first on the basketball court.

Here we go again

It’s only been two years since Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement, and the Steelers may already be forced to reconfigure their plan to replace him.

Signing Mitch Trubisky and turning him into a placeholder for Kenny Pickett lasted less than four full games in 2022. Pickett got hurt late this season and couldn’t get his job back from Mason Rudolph. Now Rudolph is a free agent, and it’s unclear what the team plans to do with him.

Pickett is only entering the third year of his entry-level contract. It’s presumed he’ll be given a chance to get the starting job back. But who will be with him in the quarterback room? Will Rudolph stay? Will the Steelers want to keep him? Are they going to move on from Trubisky or draft someone in the first three rounds that could push for the job?

Whatever the case, it can’t just be Pickett with little to no competition.

On Tuesday’s episode of NFL Live, former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky advanced three names the Steelers should consider.

“The No. 1 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 No. 1 or keep him,” Orlovsky said via a transcription. “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?’”

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All three of those acquisitions strike me as being big enough names that they would be replacements for Pickett as the starter more than competition for him. Especially when you consider the trade assets the Bears would want for Fields and the financial commitment that would go along with Cousins.

Mayfield would be the most manageable in that regard. Although, the fit in Tampa seems pretty good, and I’d imagine the Bucs would be inclined to rework his deal and keep him long-term. And why would Mayfield want to return to the brutal AFC North when he just won the NFC South with a mediocre Tampa Bay team that could get better next year if he stays?

I’m not opposed to getting either of those other two and making Pickett the backup. But I am opposed to what it would take to get Fields out of Chicago for a QB that I don’t think is going to yield positive playoff results either.

The Cousins idea is intriguing if the Vikings don’t keep him and he’s willing to come to Pittsburgh with less pressure to be 100% healthy in August (and for less money than elsewhere) after last year’s Achilles injury, knowing that Pickett is able to start until he is. I just think the market is eventually going to yield a better situation for Cousins somewhere, perhaps in New England, with a new coaching staff.

If the Steelers don’t retain Rudolph as Pickett’s legit competition to start, the best answer might be a draft choice somewhere over the first two days.

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More sports

• Steelers captains go to bat for Mike Tomlin, who reportedly says he plans to return • Change is inevitable, but Steelers players hope to be back, some recognize it might not happen • Broderick Jones still thinks LT is his natural position, but he won’t lobby for a change

Speaking of Big Ben

As for Roethlisberger himself, he endorsed the idea of giving Rudolph a chance to compete for the starting job in Pittsburgh.

And if that doesn’t work out for one reason or another, it sounds like he thinks Rudolph may get that chance with another organization.

“I think Mason did a great job coming in the last few games,” Roethlisberger said during his most recent “Footbahlin’” podcast. “He earned himself a chance to compete either here or get paid somewhere else. We’ll see what happens.”

To the previous point, if any of those three quarterbacks do end up leaving their given cities, I think Rudolph could be a perfect fit, especially in Minnesota.

Changes afoot

The Cleveland Browns finished with 11 wins and ahead of the Steelers in the AFC North standings. But they are reportedly making some big changes to their coaching staff following a first-round playoff loss to the Texans.

Josina Anderson of CBS Sports reports that they have fired offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, running backs coach Stump Mitchell and tight ends coach T.C. McCartney.

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Van Pelt, a former Pitt Panther, wasn’t the play caller. He joined the Browns when Kevin Stefanski became the team’s head coach in 2020. Stefanski calls the team’s offensive plays. Van Pelt had previously been a quarterbacks coach for the Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers before going to Cleveland.

If Mike Sullivan or Eddie Faulker move on from being the co-offensive coordinators, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Van Pelt and/or Mitchell as names that get brought up as potential candidates to fill their QB coach or running backs coach duties.

Don’t wanna be 1st

There are only two teams in NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball that are winless. One of them is at the UPMC Events Center to play Robert Morris (6-12, 2-5 Horizon League) on Wednesday night.

Detroit Mercy (0-18, 0-6 Horizon) tips off against the Colonials at 7 p.m. The Titans are coming off three consecutive home losses to Green Bay, Milwaukee and Northern Kentucky. UDM is 0-12 on the road this year. The only other winless team in the country is Mississippi Valley State (0-17).

As for RMU, Andy Toole’s team is wrapping up a four-game homestand. They won two of the first three games, including a 91-88 victory over Purdue Fort Wayne on Jan. 12.

Markeese Hastings hit a buzzer-beater to win it.

Game. Winner.

— RMU Basketball (@RMUMBasketball) January 13, 2024

The Colonials used a 53-point second half in its 85-77 win over Detroit Mercy on Jan. 27, 2023, at the UPMC Events Center. Josh Corbin scored 20 in the win.

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