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 begin separating himself from the pack while starting the second preseason game.
Explanation: After giving Joshua Dobbs the opportunity to start the first preseason game, it’s Rudolph’s turn for the second round. Within their respective groups, Rudolph arguably had the better showing in fewer snaps, moving the ball and putting it into the end zone twice. Still, there are some areas of improvement coaches will be looking for.
These are the most high-quality reps that anybody not named Ben Roethlisberger are likely to play throughout the preseason. Rudolph should have the maximum amount of available talent out on the field with him, and he will be playing against a Kansas City Chiefs defense that lacks a great secondary, though they have some formidable players upfront.
What Rudolph showed in the first preseason game was that he was more patient in reading through his progressions and had improved his footwork. Both of those qualities were evident, including on his second touchdown of the game, a short hookup with rookie tight end Zach Gentry.
Getting the first reps with starting personnel, perhaps even with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Donte Moncrief, and of course with James Washington, with whom he already has an established connection, it’s reasonable to believe he will have the best showing, building off the growth he showed in game one, to make the case for him taking over the backup job.
With Rudolph did play well in the first game, relatively speaking, so did the other two quarterbacks. So if he continues to look good, and the other two as well, it’s hard to gain that sort of traction. There is the opportunity for it, but it would have to be a step or two above what he’s already put on tape.
One thing that he didn’t show was his ability to push the ball down the field, which is something that the Steelers liked in him pre-draft, and which the others are showing. It’s something that they want to have as part of their offense. If he doesn’t start being more aggressive and having success on the vertical passes, that could slow him down in terms of separating himself from the pack.