The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Mason Rudolph will be the Steelers’ backup quarterback in 2019 and beyond (until or unless he starts).
Explanation: Though the Steelers already had two backups on their roster in 2018 that they liked in Landry Jones and Joshua Dobbs, they had a first-round grade on Rudolph. When he was available to them in the third round, they pounced on him; however, he served 2018 as Dobbs’ backup as Jones was released.
Rudolph unquestionably has the skill set and the leadership ability to handle the backup position. His rookie preseason was a stronger showing than either Dobbs or Jones had right off the bat, though that should have been expected as a player with a higher pedigree.
In his own testimony, Rudolph believes that he grew tremendously during the regular season while he was able to sit back and learn, but he still approached his scout team duties as though it were his Super Bowl, and he felt he was ready to play by year’s end.
On the flip side, while Dobbs statistically had a nice preseason, and particularly had a strong finale, that was against third- and fourth-string players, and much of his performance through the exhibition period was lifted by the play of those around him, particularly James Washington-and we already know Rudolph has a relationship with him. Dobbs struggled when he had to see extended action in the regular season.
Making ‘the jump’ at the quarterback position is perhaps one of the most difficult projections to make in football. Was he ready to be the backup at the start of the 2018 season? No, I don’t think so. And none of us have actually seen him since then, so we can only go by what we’ve heard—which is largely from Rudolph himself.
And lest we forget, Dobbs isn’t much older or experienced than Rudolph. In other words, he’s still growing nearly just as much in this process. Rudolph will be better in 2019, but Dobbs should be as well, and he is amply motivated to hold on to his job, even if that means the Steelers have to bite the bullet and accept that they may have over-evaluated Rudolph.