The post-Ben Roethlisberger era is upon Pittsburgh.
After 18 seasons with Big Ben under center, the Steelers will have a new full-time starting quarterback for the first time in Mike Tomlin's tenure.
The coach said Tuesday the organization is proceeding with the assumption that Roethlisberger will retire, even if a formal announcement hasn't been made. Tomlin said he's ready for the new experiment ahead at the position.
"I'm excited about that challenge," he said. "Those of us that are competitors are. It's a challenge. It makes you uneasy."
Tomlin added "all options are on the table" when it comes to finding a new QB.
The Steelers are expected to give Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins (restricted free agent) a chance to seize the role this offseason.
"Both guys, Mason and Dwayne, have had their moments, but they'll have to prove that," Tomlin said. "And not only in the team development process, but through playing itself. There are guys that start that I wouldn't characterize as everyday starters. They'll be given an opportunity to establish themselves and there's going to be competition, there always is. So, they'll write that story. But I think that both guys have positioned themselves to fight that fight with what they've done from a work standpoint and a professionalism standpoint in 2021."
Rudolph hasn't displayed the consistency under center that would build confidence he could be a full-time starter and succeed. His dismal performance in his lone start in 2021 -- a tie with the then-winless Lions -- underscored the low upside Rudolph brings.
Haskins was a first-round pick in Washington but washed out following struggles on and off the field. Haskins has raw talent, but unless he's made considerable strides in Pittsburgh during practices, he's likely not the long-term answer either.
As NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport previously reported, the Steelers are expected to add a QB to compete with Rudolph and Haskins, possibly using an early draft pick to bring in a young signal-caller -- perhaps Pitt product Kenny Pickett. Steeler Nation will hold out hope Pittsburgh can wrangle a star QB to keep alive their winning ways -- i.e., Russell Wilson.
Whatever path Pittsburgh takes in adding to its QB room, Tomlin offered a nugget of what he's looking for: mobility.
"Man, quarterback mobility is valued," he said, reiterating a notion he's mentioned previously.
While Tomlin didn't make it a prerequisite for his next QB to be more mobile than the statuesque Roethlisberger, it's clearly a dimension the coach would like to add to his offense. That notion would put Rudolph and Haskins in a tough spot, as both are pocket passers with limited running ability (albeit more than Big Ben, if that's the baseline from which we're working).
Tomlin has had a future Hall of Fame QB under center for his entire head coaching career. The last few years have been a battle to make that marriage a success, but Tomlin and Big Ben still went out without a losing season together.
Now it's Tomlin's chance to plow a new path with a new QB.