Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: QB Mason Rudolph
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: Coming off of a solid performance for the Steelers in the regular season finale, Mason Rudolph also seemingly got a vote of confidence yesterday from team president Art Rooney II.
Entering his fourth season in 2021, Mason Rudolph understands that this is a big year for him, the final year of his rookie contract. Taken in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft, but viewed by the Steelers as having first-round pedigree, he knows that it’s time for him to stake his claim on the title of heir apparent—if he can.
Rudolph had a golden opportunity to do that in 2019 when Ben Roethlisberger missed most of the season due to injury, but he wasn’t prepared for that platform, and his performance waivered as the season progressed. He actually threw nine touchdown passes in his first five games versus three interceptions, two of which were not his fault, but he is best remembered four the four-interception game that got him benched.
Due to the pandemic, he didn’t have much of an offseason to show how he had grown, but he did get the opportunity to start in the season finale against a Cleveland Browns team fighting for their playoff lives, and he at least made them work for it.
In all, he completed 22 of 39 passes in that game for 315 yards with two touchdowns to one interception, making several connections on deep passes. He was certainly far from flawless, but it was widely seen as the best performance of his career and an indication of some improvement.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Art Rooney II said that they are comfortable with Rudolph as somebody who can play and be a starter in the NFL. That’s a step up from saying last year that they were comfortable with him being the backup.