The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.
The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.
How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? Who is sitting out due to injury?
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: What would it take to create a quarterback controversy between Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges?
To make this perfectly clear, I don’t think that there is any doubt that Mason Rudolph will be ready to return to play following the Steelers’ bye week, and I believe that he is going to be able to continue to deliver an acceptable level of play that will keep him in the lineup.
That’s what I believe will happen, of course. That doesn’t mean that’s how things are going to play out. The Steelers are comfortable in Devlin Hodges, and even though he didn’t set the world on fire in his first start last night, he showed enough to indicate that he is a viable player if necessary.
Rudolph remains in the concussion protocol. I think it’s pretty unlikely based on indications of his current progress—he was on the sidelines with a headset on, after all—that he won’t be available for the team’s next start.
So barring an unfortunate setback that sees Hodges get another start, and thus another opportunity to prove himself, I think what’s necessary for Hodges to get back into the lineup is for Rudolph to play poorly enough to raise the question, but not so bad that they remove their postseason viability.
If the Steelers are not competing for the postseason, I see no reason for them to pull Rudolph if he’s struggling. They will probably never get a better opportunity than this to evaluate him as a potential future franchise quarterback, so they need to get as large a sample size as possible.
If, however, they are fighting for the playoffs and they think Hodges might be able to give them a better chance to win some games, they could make that change under those circumstances.