While they have found their franchise quarterback in Kenny Pickett, the Pittsburgh Steelers are trying to figure out who will back Pickett up in 2023. Mitch Trubisky is still under contract, but his $10.25 million cap hit has created questions about his future in Pittsburgh. Mason Rudolph, drafted in 2018 as Ben Roethlisberger's possible heir, is slated to enter free agency for the first time. 

As it relates to Rudolph, the veteran backup's primary goal is to explore his options outside of Pittsburgh, according to Tim Benz of the Tribune-Review. Rudolph also wouldn't "close the door unnecessarily" on continuing his career with the Steelers. 

Rudolph returning to Pittsburgh would obviously mean that the Steelers would want him back. Based on Rudolph's experience and overall familiarity with Pittsburgh's offense, it's reasonable to think that the Steelers would be interested in keeping Rudolph. 

Weird would be the best word to describe Rudolph's NFL career so far. It started with awkward comments made publicly from Roethlisberger about his surprise in the Steelers spending a third-round pick on a quarterback. 

Rudolph didn't play at all as a rookie before he was thrust into the starting lineup two weeks into the 2019 season when Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending injury. Rudolph went 5-3 as a starter, but inconsistent play led to him being benched late in the season (a concussion sustained against Baltimore in Week 5 seemed to hinder the progress he had made up until that point in the season, thus leading to the benching). He finished that season with 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions while completing 62.2% of his passes. 

With Roethlisberger healthy and back in the lineup, Rudolph made just two starts over the next two years. He played arguably the best game of his career in a close loss to the Browns in the 2020 season finale. Facing the team that would defeat Pittsburgh a week later in the playoffs, Rudolph threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns and an interception while leading the Steelers on a late rally.

If there was a fork in the road for Rudolph's time in Pittsburgh, it was his last start, which occurred against the then-winless Lions in Week 9. With Roethlisberger missing the game due to COVID-19 protocol, Rudolph had a so-so game, completing half of his pass attempts for 242 yards with one touchdown and one interception in a game that ended in a tie. 

Rudolph was technically given a chance to compete to be Roethlisberger's successor entering the 2022 season. But given that the Steelers had signed Trubisky in free agency and drafted Pickett in the first round, the writing was on the wall regarding Rudolph's role for the 2022 season. Predictably, Rudolph spend the season behind Pickett and Trubisky on the depth chart. He did not dress for a single game. 

While his time in Pittsburgh hasn't been the smoothest, it apparently wasn't bad enough for Rudolph to rule out a possible return. If he returns, there is a chance that Rudolph would be Pickett's primary backup should the team trade or release Trubisky.