The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Does Mason Rudolph need to win the backup quarterback job in 2019 to ‘justify’ the draft pick?
To the chagrin of many, the Steelers used a fourth-round draft pick on a quarterback during the 2017 NFL Draft, selecting Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs, who served as the number three during his rookie season and only dressed for the finale in which the team rested as many starters as possible.
They doubled up on quarterbacks in 2018, using a third-round pick to draft Mason Rudolph. Dobbs was able to keep his roster spot by showing enough for the Steelers to be comfortable enough to carry him as the backup over veteran Landry Jones, whom they released.
Rudolph spent the entire season on the inactive list, and recently admitted more or less that his head was still swimming early on as he adjusted to the realities of the NFL. But he felt as the season progressed that he reached a point at which he believed he would be able to play if necessary.
His task heading into his second season is to be able to win the backup job from Dobbs, which is important for a number of reasons. For one, it looks much better when you use a top-100 pick on a quarterback if he is a backup rather than a third-stringer.
But more significantly, the backup quarterback gets a lot more opportunities to take snaps in practice, and that is especially the case with a starter such as Ben Roethlisberger, who receives a lot of rest days over the course of a season.
The Steelers didn’t draft Rudolph because they needed a quarterback. They already had three. They drafted him because they felt that he legitimately had first-round talent, and in another year they could have e en considered taking him that early if the position had been a need.
This fact places a greater burden on him to succeed, and for the organization to see him succeed, so what would it mean if Dobbs keeps him at bay in 2019?