While all eyes are on Ben Roethlisberger this offseason as it pertains to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback position, many are also extending a fertive glance in the direction of Mason Rudolph, the team’s third-year quarterback who ended up as their primary starter in 2019, starting eight games and posting a 5-3 record.
Originally drafted in the third round in 2018, the Steelers took the unusual step post-draft to note they viewed him as a first-round pick, and even indicated that, had they felt they needed a quarterback immediately, he would have been in the discussion for their first-round pick. They viewed him as a potential heir apparent, in contrast to Landry Jones and Joshua Dobbs.
It wasn’t at all apparent, however, that he would serve as an appropriate heir after Roethlisberger is done, if his 2019 play is to be the judge. Overall, he went 176-for-283, throwing for 1765 yards, completing 62.2 percent of his passes at 6.2 yards per attempt. He threw 13 touchdown passes, but also nine interception, with four fumbles, though he did not lose any.
He was even benched due to performance following a six-quarter stretch in which he threw five interceptions, in favor of Devlin Hodges, who would start the next four games before being benched himself. Rudolph was injured in his return, and is still recovering from said injury.
Yet to a man, those in charge remain confident in Rudolph. President Art Rooney II said of him yesterday, “We’re still in the process of digesting the season and analyzing what we’re doing, but as we sit here today, we’re all comfortable with Mason being our backup. Speaking of unusual seasons, he had an unusual season. He really had to deal with some unusual circumstances, including injuries”.
Outside of the season-ending injury, which proved to be more serious than it was initially portrayed, he also suffered a scary concussion back in Week Four that caused him to miss the next game, even though he was able to be on the practice field in a limited capacity.
The ideal scenario for any team’s backup quarterback, from an organizational perspective, is that he only plays when the score is a blowout in their favor. In theory, the Steelers hope that they hardly see Rudolph at all on the field in 2020.
Yet they must also wonder, must find out what strides he can take going forward, knowing that time is running out for Roethlisberger, especially as he looks to return from a severe elbow injury. As of right now, they are expected to be the only team in the AFC North without a young first-round pick starting at quarterback.