If there was any doubt remaining, then last night solidified the fact that Mason Rudolph will be the Pittsburgh Steelers’ new backup quarterback. Mike Tomlin only inserted him into the game with under seven minutes to play in the first half, and then gave all of the second half to Devlin Hodges, so if he were still competing for the role, he would have been given more opportunities to showcase himself.
In that amount of time, he completed seven of 11 pass attempts for 125 yards, completing a 31-yard touchdown to Johnny Holton. He also connected with Holton on a 44-yard gain, able to push the ball down the field more than he has throughout the preseason. Still, he’s not taking anything as a given, about his performance or his status.
“There’s a lot that coaches look at. There’s a lot that we hold ourselves accountable for”, he told reporters after the game about his preseason. “Protecting the football, obviously ball security is big with [offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner]. He harps on that a lot. Making sure we’re penalty-free. Last game, I didn’t do the best job at communication, so you’ve always got to look at that”.
He was likely referring primarily to the interception that he threw on Sunday while targeting James Washington, who clearly ran a route Rudolph wasn’t expecting. He took the blame for that, and of course it’s entirely possible that he was to blame.
As for whether or not he’s confident that his play will earn him the backup role over Joshua Dobbs, Rudolph said, “that’s a coaching decision. I don’t have any say in that. I try to control what I can control”. He added, “I tried to put my best foot forward, and we’ll see what the coaches think. It’s not my decision”.
Still, the numbers speak for themselves and Rudolph was clearly the best of the backup quarterbacks for the Steelers during the preseason, and really throughout the summer. He completed 28 of 43 pass attempts for 368 yards with four touchdown passes and one interception, posting a quarterback rating of 113.3 Dobbs did not throw a touchdown pass, nor I believe lead a single touchdown drive, all preseason.
The team originally selected Rudolph in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft, doing so not because they needed another quarterback but because they believed that he is a legitimate talent with a future. They already had a secured backup in Landry Jones and Joshua Dobbs going into his second season.
While his rookie year was somewhat underwhelming, he has emerged through the offseason process looking more or less like the prospect that they thought he might be. Who knows what he might do in the future, but at least for now, he looks like he can be a solid backup, and probably the best quarterback on the team since Ben Roethlisberger was drafted in 2004.