Around the AFC North: Who Will Play Quarterback for Steelers If Not Big Ben?

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Left: Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger; Right: Steelers QB Mason Rudolph

Pittsburgh Steelers: Weighing Quarterback Options For Next Season

Another week has begun with Ben Roethlisberger's future still uncertain. The veteran quarterback carries a reported $41 million salary-cap hit for next season and the Steelers have already said he won't play for them in 2021 without major concessions.

General Manager Kevin Colbert was noncommittal when asked about Roethlisberger last week.

"As we sit here today, Ben is a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers," Colbert said via Yahoo.com.

If the Steelers move on from Roethlisberger, backup Mason Rudolph, who started eight games in 2019, would be a candidate to become the starter. Rudolph has 15 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions during his career, so he'd have to earn the starting job.

"You don't put it out there that you can't take on Ben Roethlisberger's contract unless he adjusts it, unless you are prepared to move on," said Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com. "Usually when this happens, it already means the team is leaning towards this decision. I know Steelers fans don't want to hear it, but I think that decision may include Mason Rudolph starting Week 1 next season. They've always been higher on him than everyone else."

The Steelers also have a young quarterback on the roster looking to prove himself – Dwayne Haskins, a former first-round pick of the Washington Football Team. Haskins was cut last season after making mistakes both on and off the field, however Colbert sounded intrigued about Haskins' potential.

"We're excited to see what Dwayne can do with us," Colbert said via Yahoo.com. "It didn't work out for him in Washington. We had high grades on Dwayne coming out of Ohio State. He's a young, talented quarterback and we're anxious to see what he can do once he gets here and gets working with us."

Bucky Brooks of NFL.com believes the Steelers may consider signing a veteran as a bridge quarterback for next season, and Brooks mentioned Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jameis Winston, and former Ravens backup Tyrod Taylor as possibilities.

Whether Roethlisberger returns or not, Colbert said the organization must evaluate why the Steelers faded down the stretch after an 11-0 start, dropping five of their last six, including a playoff loss to the Browns.

"To come out of the gates and as good as we did and hit that 11-0 mark, only to fall in the first round of the playoffs, it was very disappointing," Colbert said. "We need to be judged on how we finish the season and not about how we did during the season."

Cleveland Browns: J.J. Watt Could Fit in Cleveland

The Browns have been mentioned as a possible destination for free agent defensive end J.J. Watt, who was released last week by the Houston Texans. Cleveland is a young team with talent that made the playoffs last season, and playing alongside Pro-Bowl defensive end Myles Garrett would made it difficult for opponents to double-team Watt.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, Cleveand remains on Watt's radar, and the Browns have around $27.6 million in cap space. That's more cap room than other potential suitors for Watt have like the Green Bay Packers, Tennessee Titans or Arizona Cardinals.

Having a Garrett-Watt pass-rushing duo may sound good to Browns fans, but Watt indicated on Twitter that he would be deliberate making a decision on his future.

*Cincinnati Bengals: Tight End Kyle Pitts Could Be First-Round Target                                   *

Florida tight end Kyle Pitts is gaining momentum as a popular pick for the Bengals with the No. 5 pick in the draft.

The Bengals want to improve their pass protection around quarterback Joe Burrow, which makes offensive lineman Penei Sewell of Oregon another highly-mentioned possibility.

However, Pitts had 43 catches for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in just eight games last season. At 6-foot-6, 246 pounds, putting Pitts into an offense that already includes young weapons like Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd would give Burrow another dangerous target. Pitts has drawn comparisons to Las Vegas Raiders Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller, a former Baltimore Raven.

"He's one of the best tight end prospects we've seen in decades," James Rapien of SI.com said. "You look at a guy like Joe Burrow, Pitts could fit right in. You move him all over, from the slot, put him outside he can beat man coverage he can win against the zone. And he's only 20 years old. He is arguably the best skill player in this draft."

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