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2019 South Side Questions: What Will Benching Mean For Rudolph Long-Term?

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 will his benching mean for Mason Rudolph in the long term?

Head coach Mike Tomlin announced yesterday that he has made the decision to start Devlin Hodges against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. While he made it clear that this was a decision for this game and this game only, it leaves the door open for the possibility of a permanent shift in the depth chart.

The Steelers drafted Rudolph in 2018 believing that he had the potential to be a future starter in the league. He got the opportunity this year to try out for that role, ultimately starting eight games and going 5-3 in the process (Hodges finished two of those games; one win and one loss).

On the season, he has completed 162 of 263 passes for 1636 yards with 12 touchdowns to now nine interceptions, five of which have come over the course of the past game and a half, averaging just 6.2 yards per pass attempt.

Hodges has just one start to his name, with his second coming on Sunday, but has played in three games, coming off the bench twice. He has now completed 27 of 40 pass attempts for 318 yards, completing two touchdowns to one interception, while averaging eight yards per attempt.

If he plays well against the Browns, it’s obviously reasonable to believe that he will continue to start while that proves to remain the case. While the Steelers viewed Rudolph as a first-round talent, they only invested a third-round pick in him.

They will still afford him ample opportunity to retake the backup role to Ben Roethlisberger. But Hodges now has an opportunity in front of him. He was chosen to start, for the first time in his career. He can force the team to continue to make that choice over Rudolph going forward.

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