The Pittsburgh Steelers’ official depth chart released Tuesday morning confirmed one thing that we already knew. Mason Rudolph is the backup quarterback this year, jumping over Josh Dobbs after an impressive preseason. In his first Tuesday press conference of the regular season, Mike Tomlin explained what Rudolph did to earn the nod.
“He took very good care of the ball,” Tomlin told reporters. “He showed the natural maturation process that we expect from second year players. First of all, he showed up in great physical condition. He showed a guy whose been a lap around the track in that regard and it set the stage for a more consistent performance.”
Taking care of the football was an issue Rudolph had as a rookie. Too many ugly interceptions in camp, too many fumbles in the preseason. He steadied the ship this year. One of his “best” plays actually came on a sack in the finale against Carolina. Compare to what happened in the preseason opener against Philadelphia a year ago. Scrambling, poor carriage of the football, and he loses it as he gets hit.
This year? He secures the ball before getting sacked and doesn’t lose the ball. He needs to work on carrying the football while escaping the pocket, still don’t like how it swings away from his body, but there’s improvement. What would’ve been a fumble last year was only a sack in 2019.
Tomlin went on to explain what Rudolph showed on the field.
“I think he’s grown a lot in terms of his understanding of how we attack people and his role in the offense. And I think it showed in his play. All of those are reasons why he’s the backup quarterback.”
Rudolph played mostly mistake-free football this time around, completing nearly two-thirds of his passes, throwing four touchdowns, and just one interception, a result of James Washington running the wrong route against Tennessee. Dobbs continued to show inconsistency but it was Rudolph’s advanced play the won him the job. Less so than Dobbs simply losing it.
But Tomlin noted Rudolph’s spot as the #2 isn’t written in ink.
“It’s all very fluid just like all of our jobs. I think one of the things that you have to relay to the team particularly at this portion of the season, particularly because you have a lot of young guys living out their dreams, guys wanting to make a 53 man roster, they will continually earn those roles and those positions within the group day-to-day. It never ends. There is no opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief, if you will. It won’t be for Mason, it won’t be for any of us. He better earn that 2nd quarterback job daily. If not, Dobbs will be waiting.”
Of course, the goal is for neither Rudolph nor Dobbs to log a single snap this year. That means a healthy Ben Roethlisberger for 16 games. But Rudolph is now just a play away from taking his first rep in regular season action. So let’s hope he continues to make strides.