The lack of preseason games this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will certainly hinder the growth of several young players on the Pittsburgh Steelers. One of those young players is backup quarterback Mason Rudolph, who the organization seemingly remains confident in as he enters his third NFL season following a 2019 season which included more lows than highs for him after taking over initially for injured starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about Rudolph on Thursday morning and specifically about what improvements he’s made this offseason and what the current expectations are for the former third-round selection out of Oklahoma State entering the 2020 season.
“We’re not in the working stage yet for him to have exhibited any significant improvements in any way and so that’s a tough answer,” Tomlin said of Rudolph. “We’re looking forward to him taking a significant step this year. I think that’s a reasonable thing as he continues to mature, not only through time spent with us, but experience and exposure, and he’s gotten some in-game exposure.
“You know, it’s going to be an issue for him not to get those quality preseason snaps that are so valuable for a young developing quarterback, but all the young developing quarterbacks have to deal with those circumstances this year and other positional players. It’s just a function of where we are here in 2020.”
That’s obviously not much of an update on Rudolph but not a surprising one from Tomlin, nonetheless. After all, the Steelers are still in the early stages of their 2020 training camp and that means the team is basically doing what they would have been doing in the early stages of their OTA practices, had those taken place this spring. Once the team starts really getting busy in practices a few weeks from now, Tomlin will likely be in a better position to comment on the progress, or lack thereof, that Rudolph has made.
Rudolph has essentially been anointed the 2020 backup to Roethlisberger ever since the 2019 season ended and even though his last official start came in Week 12 against the Cincinnati Bengals. In that game, Rudolph was benched for continued poor play early in the second half and he wouldn’t see the field again until the team’s Week 16 game against the Jets, when he was asked to take over for then-struggling starter Devlin Hodges. While Rudolph had a nice showing in that game against the Jets after taking over for Hodges, he couldn’t finish the contest due to an upper body injury that ultimately required surgery.
While a large selection of media and fans demanded the Steelers sign a veteran quarterback this offseason to backup Roethlisberger in 2020, the team seemingly had no plans to do so and instead vehemently stood in support of Rudolph remaining in that role all offseason.
Like it or not, and barring something totally unexpected, Rudolph will be the Steelers backup quarterback in 2020 and he’ll be backed up by either Hodges or Paxton Lynch. The only way we’ll ultimately find out if that was the right decision or not is if Rudolph plays any meaningful snaps during the regular season, which is something all of us hope doesn’t happen.
Should, however, Rudolph wind up playing meaningful snaps at any point during the 2020 season and not play well, it could ultimately go down as one of the biggest faux pas that Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert ever made during his long tenure in Pittsburgh, which will likely come to an end sooner rather than later.