The regular season marks the culmination of an extensive investigation into who your team will be that year. By this point, you’ve gone through free agency, the draft, training camp, and the preseason. You feel good in your decisions insofar as you can create clarity without having played meaningful games. But there are still plenty of uncertainties that remain, whether at the start of the regular season or the end, and new ones continually develop over time.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Mason Rudolph should start this week regardless of Ben Roethlisberger’s status, after taking all of the practice reps during the week.
Explanation: The Steelers are dealing with a starting quarterback who has had COVID-19 for the past week and has been unable to be around his teammates. While Ben Roethlisberger has been involved virtually, Mason Rudolph has been the one preparing for the game with those on the field.
It’s reasonable to believe that Mason Rudolph can author a better performance from this offense with a full and proper week of practice, rather than finding out on Saturday and then playing in rainy conditions with a short-handed deck and having two linemen get injured mid-game.
Not everybody who left that game will be available this week, but everyone who will be playing is practicing with him right now. If you’re talking about cleaning up execution, there’s nothing better to address that than reps.
Roethlisberger doesn’t really seem to have even talked football much with his teammates during his absence. Those who have mentioned his contact have more deferred to saying he’s working with quarterback coach Mike Sullivan.
And the reality is, it’s not like Roethlisberger’s been playing all that great. There isn’t some big gap between the two. There are probably some who argue that Rudolph gives them a better chance to win, anyway. At the worst, if gives Roethlisberger another week to rest his physical injuries.
Let’s put this as simply as possible: It’s overwhelmingly obvious that Roethlisberger does not have to practice in order to be able to play. And we’ve already been down this road. While he didn’t have COVID-19 last year, he was in the protocol during the week leading up to one game. He didn’t practice at all, short of a walkthrough, and he played. And the Steelers won that game, 36-10, by the way.
Rudolph would have already been playing if the Steelers thought he gave them a better chance to win. Roethlisberger wouldn’t have even been brought back for this season if they shared that view. And they shouldn’t, because in no way is Rudolph better than even a 39-year-old Roethlisberger. On top of that, as we saw last week, the skill players just don’t have the same chemistry with Rudolph, even neutralizing all other factors.