A first round player for a third round pick? When you frame it like that, it’s easy to understand why the Pittsburgh Steelers took the chance on Mason Rudolph. Although Kevin Colbert has hinted at it since Rudolph became the 76th pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, yesterday was the first time – that I’m aware of, at least – Colbert explicitly said the Steelers had a first round grade on him.
Participating in a Q&A session for Steelers Nation Unite, Colbert mentioned that when asked why the team drafted Rudolph.
“It was really a simple choice,” Colbert said. “Because we had Mason Rudolph rated among a really good group of quarterbacks. Which was unique to this draft. We haven’t seen a group like this in all honesty since the 2004 draft when we were able to take Ben. Mason had first round grades on him. We thought he could be an eventual starter in this league at some point.”
I only write this because like I said, it’s the first time I’ve heard Colbert confirm it. Previously, he’s always just said the first sentence, saying Rudolph was right up there with the other five quarterbacks, all of whom were selected in the first round. But that didn’t have to mean Rudolph was slapped with the almighty first round grade. Now, we know for sure.
That process to become a first round pick, by the way, is a lengthy one in the Steelers’ organization. Refer back to what Brandon Hunt said in the annual “scouting process” video on the team site of what makes an “A” grade.
“For an ‘A’ player, you have three evaluations from three scouts, position coach, coordinator, and head coach,” Hunt said. “And then obviously the general manager Kevin Colbert is over the top on every one of those players. So you’ll have a minimum of six evaluations.”
Which means Rudolph passed with flying colors across the board (though in a QBs case, there may have been only five evaluations since Randy Fichtner pulls double duty as OC/QB). And as the Steelers have expressed from the moment they took him, they view him as Ben Roethlisberger’s heir. That’s much different than Josh Dobbs; the team immediately dismissed any “heir” comments after taking him in 2017.
I know most of this isn’t breaking news. But given how rare it is for Colbert to talk about specific player grades, it was worth pointing out. And means they passed up on Rudolph in the second round for James Washington, who I presume didn’t have a first round grade. Technically, that’s not “sticking to their board” the way Colbert referred to shortly after the draft and shows that not even the Steelers are a strict “best player available” team. It’s just as much about the need as it is the value.