2019 South Side Questions: Was Mike Tomlin Too Emphatic In Saying Mason Rudolph Will Back Up Ben In 2020?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.

The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.

How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?

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: Was Mike Tomlin too emphatic in stating that Mason Rudolph will be Ben Roethlisberger’s backup in 2020?

The Steelers were excited about Mason Rudolph when they drafted him in 2018. They were excited when he clearly won the backup quarterback position in 2019. They were surely less than thrilled when they saw cause to bench him toward the latter stages of the season.

While he was reinserted into the lineup in the middle of the penultimate game of the season, presumably to remain in that position the rest of the way—and they could have had a postseason for themselves if they won those final two games—he suffered a season-ending injury instead.

And he looked pretty good in the quarter and a half of play or so in which he participated in that game. But is it really enough to say that he is going to be the backup in 2020 without competition? This speaks to the position two-fold.

One, it says that they are not particularly interested in even considering alternatives outside of the roster. Two, it ignores the potential growth of Devlin Hodges, who, if we’re being honest with ourselves, is ahead of where Rudolph was at the same point in his career.

Why take the time now to state that Rudolph is going to be the backup? Maybe it’s a boost of confidence for him, but what about Hodges? Was Tomlin’s statement merely a tactical approach?

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