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Best foot forward

Mike Tomlin hasn't said who he's looking for specifically to replace Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, but the Steelers' head coach has left little doubt what he's looking for in identifying Roethlisberger's successor.

"Quarterback mobility is valued, not only by me but by everyone," Tomlin emphasized this week. "It's just a component of today's game, and increasingly so."

That thought hasn't been lost on Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins, the two quarterbacks not named Roethlisberger on the Steelers' roster when this season ended.

"We play certain quarterbacks that have that type of mobility," Haskins observed. "Scout teams, during the week I get an opportunity to try to emulate them and what they do. Guys like Pat Mahomes, guys that can extend plays like Aaron Rodgers and throw the ball downfield.

"I think (Tomlin) is defining quarterback mobility as a person that can extend plays. Not necessarily a Lamar Jackson-type or a guy that can take off for 60 yards but a guy that can get a first down, be able to move around the pocket, make a guy miss, kind of the way that young Ben was. I know Ben was like a Josh Allen-type early on in his career. That's something that I feel I can add, another dynamic to this offense."

Rudolph does, too.

"I've gotten better at that," he said. "Whether it's from a strength and conditioning standpoint but also just knowing the right times, extending the play to throw but there are times when you need to get it done with your legs. That excites me. I enjoy that.

"I think you saw that this year, sparingly, when I've had the opportunity. I want to continue to do that when it's needed in the future. I know that's a part of (offensive coordinator) Matt Canada's offense. It's obviously something Coach Tomlin looks for in a quarterback."

Rudolph, a third-round pick in 2018who's made 10 career starts for the Steelers, has yet to be confused with the Ravens' Jackson as a threat to run. Few if any have, including Haskins.

But Rudolph can see the direction in which the Steelers' offense is headed.

"I think it was a bit of a mesh this year between some of the things that Ben has done for 18 years, some of the concepts that he liked, what he was comfortable with, his playing style meshed with Matt," Rudolph said. "Knowing Matt, if he returns, I enjoy his offense.

"I enjoy the Jet-motion, the shifting and pre-snap. I think it does a good job. I think it helps us disguise. I'm very aware that we fell short of the mark this year in a lot of offensive categories and so we need to improve. I enjoy Matt, we got a good relationship. I've got a good relationship with Coach Sullivan (quarterbacks coach Mike). I enjoy working with those guys."

Haskins, a first-round pick of Washington in 2019 and a veteran if 16 NFL starts, crossed paths with Canada before joining the Steelers prior to this season.

"Having known Canada, being able to play against Canada in college, I know he does a lot of different things with the quarterback run, quarterback on the move, and involved the RPO (run-pass option) game, as well," Haskins said. "As far as what he asks the quarterbacks to do, I feel like I got a great opportunity to do that preseason. A game like Philly, for example, to be able to move around the pocket, be able to call rollout passes, call different things, RPOs and schemes like that. I feel like what he wants the quarterback to do, he's able to adjust to who's playing. I feel like it'll be different with another guy back there."

Both potential replacements for "Big Ben" believe they've grown and will continue to grow their games.

"I think footwork definitely is important," Haskins said. "When defining footwork you can talk about foot speed, you can talk about timing, you can talk about depth of drops and different concepts. Really, it just becomes an understanding of what you're doing and how you want to do it.

"Sometimes it's really just detailing what you want to do. Having talked to 'Sully' (Sullivan) already, talking to Canada, talking to guys like Coach Gie (senior conditioning coordinator Garrett Giemont), and really just the mental minutia of playing quarterback that I never really had an opportunity to sit there and go through, being able to watch that and learn that, and even to apply that in the way that we practice, I definitely feel like my footwork has improved.

"'Sully' does a great job. He's worked with guys like Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, and those guys are elite quarterbacks. So that's something that we have an example of, we had that with Ben. We work really hard on that and I feel like I've definitely improved."

Added Rudolph: "Each year there's things you want to improve on whether that's footwork, mechanics, arm angle. I think that's changed a bit. I think I've improved in that manner, throwing off different platforms.

"Also, from a mental standpoint … knowing I can maybe be a bit more myself as far as being the leader I've always been at the quarterback position and not worry about stepping on the toes of a longtime Hall-of-Fame player. All of those things excite me."