Who doesn’t love a nice, healthy discussion about backup quarterbacks? There isn’t a thing more exciting in professional sports than the guys behind the starter at the most important position in football, after all, as you well know. Especially after a season in which they had to account for 14.5 starts.
That would be the predicament into which the Pittsburgh Steelers step, after Ben Roethlisberger missed that much time in 2019 with torn tendons in his throwing elbow. While they believe that he is virtually as good as new as far as the injury is concerned, having a quality backup quarterback is always important under the best of circumstances.
And it’s fair to say that their backup, third-year Mason Rudolph, showed that he still has some room for improvement in his young career through eight starts and 10 games of action. He did, after all, at one point get benched for an undrafted rookie. But general manager Kevin Colbert does like what he’s seen.
“Mason, he looks like a veteran”, he told Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller on SiriusXM Radio on Thursday. “He’s still developing. He’s making some good decisions, he’s getting the ball out. He’s continuing to grow, much like Devin Bush is at the linebacker spot. So you feel a little more comfort level there”.
Over 523 snaps played last season, Rudolph completed 176 of 283 passes for 1765 yards, throwing 13 touchdowns to 9 interceptions. According to Pro Football Reference, he delivered an on-target ball 71.4 percent of the time, suffering 16 dropped passes. For comparison’s sake, Drew Brees delivered an accurate pass 84.1 percent of the time.
As mentioned, Rudolph was benched for a stretch in favor of an undrafted rookie. That would be Devlin Hodges, who started six games last season. He is competing with Paxton Lynch for the number three job this year. Lynch was signed after Roethlisberger went down and served as the number three in 2019.
“With Devlin Hodges and with Paxton Lynch, they’re competing for that third spot. Their reps have been limited because we have to focus on beating the Giants and making sure Ben and Mason get the proper amount of reps”, Colbert acknowledged.
“When Ben doesn’t work, he’ll take that day off by coach’s decision, then Devlin and Paxton get more work, and they get to do what they can in those short opportunities”, he continued. “The cool thing about it is, beyond Ben, we have three young quarterbacks that have all started NFL games, and to me there’s some comfort in that, knowing they have been there, done that, and they can still get better, all three of them”.
It’s cool that they’ve all started some games, sure. It would be a lot cooler if they had more success when they did start. However, it is naturally an advantage when a player had gone through the week of preparation as a starter in the past, as opposed to not having done it, so there’s that, I guess.