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: Entering his fourth season and with a new contract extension under his belt, Mason Rudolph is in the most secure position he has been in his career, with an offensive coordinator he has a good relationship with and a new quarterbacks coach who has already been a positive influence.
Mason Rudolph did not have a designated quarterbacks coach in his first two seasons. The year he was drafted, the Steelers decided to move on from Todd Haley as offensive coordinator, and they promoted quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner into that role, the first time he has ever held a coordinator position at the NFL level.
But they didn’t hire a new quarterbacks coach. They left Fichtner, who was trying to figure out how to be an NFL offensive coordinator, in his prior post, while trying to train a couple young quarterbacks. It’s no surprise in hindsight that their development was something less than great.
They finally hired Matt Canada to be the quarterbacks coach last year. Rudolph recently talked about how much he benefited from that. Now that Canada is his offensive coordinator, they hired veteran quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan to serve in that capacity.
“He’s a drill guy, he’s a structure, detail-oriented guy. He’s got a lot of information for us and he holds us accountable”, he said of Sullivan last week. “Whether it’s drills on the field, he’s big on footwork, he’s big on the little things and carrying out fakes and being diligent. That’s been great because we all appreciate that. Mike’s a great person. A lot of wisdom and looking forward to continue to work with him”.
That might be the one thing he needs most to take his game to another level this year. He was able to loosen up a bit last season and let the ball fly, but he still has room to grow in his footwork, field recognition, and processing speed.
The good news is he may finally have the structure around him to maximize his talents. Is that going to translate into a franchise quarterback? That remains to be seen. At least now, if he fails, it won’t be because the Steelers didn’t give him enough help.