The Pittsburgh Steelers won’t be playing again until, most likely, the Hall of Fame game, but that doesn’t stop outlets from talking about them, or all teams, depending upon the format of the discussion. Recently, on the eve of the Super Bowl, Pro Football Focus published a list ranking the primary quarterbacks from the 2019 season.
As you would imagine, the Steelers did not grade out so favorably. Mason Rudolph was the primary quarterback of record, having started eight games and having attempted the most passes and thrown for the most yards and touchdowns on the year.
The site ranked Rudolph the 31st quarterback out of 32 judged with 250 or more dropbacks, and that put him ahead of only rookie undrafted free agent Kyle Allen of the Carolina Panthers, which is not ideal. His ‘key stat’ was listed as an Expected Points Added figure of -0.39 per dropback beyond his first read. The league average in such scenarios was -.0.05.
Rudolph was the first to take over once Ben Roethlisberger went down for the season, and he struggled in several key areas. Rudolph’s downfield passing ability made him an intriguing prospect at Oklahoma State, but he finished with the lowest grade in the league on 10-plus yard throws. Rudolph had a few solid games, but overall, a lack of big-time throws, too many turnover-worthy plays and an inability to throw accurately down the field marred the first extended action of his career.
On the year, Rudolph completed 175 of 283 pass attempts for a completion percentage of 62.2. He threw for 1765 yards, just 6.2 yards per attempt, or 5.7 adjusted yards per attempt. He did throw 13 touchdown passes, but also threw nine interceptions, the final five of which came in pretty rapid succession and led to his benching in favor of Devlin Hodges.
The Oklahoma State product was a third-round pick in 2018. The Steelers viewed him as a much better prospect than that, having had a first-round grade on him. They would not have drafted him, they said in so many words, if they did not view him as a potential candidate to be the heir apparent to the quarterback position when Ben Roethlisberger is done.
Needless to say, this past season was not a resounding endorsement in favor of that being likely, but the road is far from over. He still has two more years on his rookie contract, and Roethlisberger is also signed for two more years. He has a lot more time to develop, and he should only grow from last year’s experiences.