It’s not very often over the course of the past decade and a half that we have seen the Pittsburgh Steelers pull a quarterback for performance issues in the middle of a game. Because you don’t pull a franchise quarterback when he’s struggling. If you pull him for performance, he’s not a franchise guy.
Mason Rudolph is not a franchise guy, at least not right now, and perhaps never will be. So he got yanked one drive into the third quarter earlier today, and that decision by head coach Mike Tomlin opens the can of worms about what happens moving forward, especially in light of the fact that his replacement, Devlin Hodges, sparked the comeback and victory.
“We made a quarterback change in the second half. Just felt like our offense needed a spark”, Tomlin said after the game. “Mason wasn’t doing enough. Duck came in and provided us with a little spark, made a couple plays. We’ll see what next week holds, next week”.
While he said that as part of his opening remarks, a reporter later asked him at what point during the week he wanted to have a decision made about who would start on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. “I may have it as I stand here right now”, Tomlin responded. “But I’m not going to share it with you guys.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 24, 2019
He is being coy, but there is no benefit to him not being coy. There is nothing to be gained strategically by telling the Browns, who have now won three games in a row and could jump the Steelers in seeding with a win next week, who the quarterback will be.
Rudolph has had the two worst games of his career in the past two games, clearly not trending in the right direction. It’s obvious now that even if Tomlin does make the decision to give him the opportunity to start next week, his leash will be short enough that he can be yanked if he is putting the result of the game in jeopardy. And if he gets yanked twice, he might not get another chance.
If he even does get that second chance. Hodges has now played in three regular season games, and has looked comfortable the entire time, generally performing well, though far from flawless. What he offers, though, is a bigger chance of actually making plays.
Rudolph has become oddly passive in his decision-making since being forced into the starting lineup. It’s entirely possible that he is pushing himself too hard, thinking too much. But if those issues are costing games, the conversation necessarily shifts. Today, it just did, in a major way.