Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins excited for chance to compete for Pittsburgh Steelers' starting QB job

PITTSBURGH -- While Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says all options are on the table in adding another quarterback to fight for the starting job next season, the in-house candidates are prepared to compete for the position themselves.

Ben Roethlisberger hasn't formally announced his retirement, but Tomlin said Tuesday he is proceeding with the assumption that the 39-year-old won't be back.

Mason Rudolph, entering his fifth year with the organization, is the only quarterback under contract for the 2022 season. Former Washington Football Team first-round pick Dwayne Haskins is a restricted free agent. Both will have the opportunity to vie for the starting job.

"They're giving me a chance to compete," Haskins said, "and I have a chance to start. That's all I could ask for."

And for the first time since he was taken in the third round of the 2018 NFL draft, the 26-year-old Rudolph has a real opportunity to seize the starting job from the outset.

"All I want is a chance to compete to be the guy here," Rudolph said. "Seems like that's more of a real possibility now more than ever. Those last four years, knowing as long as Ben's healthy, you're not playing.

"... I'm ready to get the opportunity again to prove myself. I understand what I've put on tape in 2019, and up to this point, there's still question marks on my game, and I want to prove those people wrong. And I want to prove to myself and to my teammates. It's one day at a time."

Rudolph saw action in just two games this season, including a start in a Week 10 tie against the Detroit Lions after Roethlisberger tested positive for COVID-19 a day earlier. Rudolph also started eight games in a roller-coaster 2019 season in which he suffered a concussion, was hit on the head with his own helmet by Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett and suffered a season-ending injury late in the year. He finished that season with 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions along with a 62.2 completion percentage.

As part of his development, Rudolph watched and dissected all of his 2019 tape last offseason.

"I think that's probably the most adversity I've ever had in a season in my life," Rudolph said. "And it happened within the span of 10 weeks. I'm a better man for what happened to me that year. I've been hardened. My skin's been thickened. I've been through a lot.

"I know that I'm better prepared and ready for whatever football throws at me. I've kind of got a 'screw it' mentality. I finally got a chance to play the game I love, and I'm going to empty the tank and have no regrets."

Haskins lost the backup job to Rudolph in training camp and was inactive for all but one game in 2021 after signing a one-year deal with the Steelers in free agency. Though he hasn't started an NFL regular-season game since Dec. 27, 2020, Haskins still believes he can be a starter.

"I definitely feel like I could be a starter in this league," Haskins said. "I got drafted for that reason. I definitely believe I have talent to play with the best of them, but really, I just haven't put it all together yet. And that's something I have to do this offseason in order to put myself in that position to play."

For both Rudolph and Haskins, part of earning the starting job is in their ability to display leadership qualities.

"I can maybe be a bit more myself, being the leader that I've always been at the quarterback position and not worried about stepping on the toes of a longtime Hall of Fame player," Rudolph said.

And while Haskins, 24, was criticized for lacking those qualities in Washington, he believes he's developing into a leader in Pittsburgh.

"I want to be a leader," Haskins said. "I want to be a guy people can rely on, on and off the field. I'm more than just a guy who can throw a ball and be talented. I can be an efficient player. I can execute at a high level. I can keep the Steeler way and continue to go on the path we're trying to go on as far as making playoff runs and going to the Super Bowl."