For the next couple of weeks, every story will be about Ben Roethlisberger. His career, his success, his legacy. But once Roethlisberger has officially hung up his cleats, the focus will shift to the team’s most pressing question. Who will replace him? Mason Rudolph is the only Steelers’ QB under contract for next season and if the team turns in-house, it’ll be Rudolph.
After getting mop up duty in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Matt Canada was asked to evaluate Rudolph’s play and progression.
“I think Mason, as we all experience, coming in and having confidence and knowing the system, learning it,” he said in audio provided by the team. “I’ve always said he works so hard at his football. He wants to be so good.. I wouldn’t say I’ve seen that improve but you just see the benefits of that. It’s kinda like experience. The more and more you study and the more and more you work on things, he’s gotten better.”
Rudolph has appeared in a pair of games this season. He started Week 10 against the Detroit Lions after Ben Roethlisberger was shelved on the COVID list 24 hours before kickoff. And he entered the game for a final drive in Sunday’s loss, going 5/8 for 35 yards. There was no “wow” throw and the Chiefs played a conservative, two-high shell, but Rudolph handled the moment well. His pocket presence looked better and he showed mobility, running for 17 yards on one play and buying more time on others.
The Steelers’ QB for 2022 is wide open. For a team in unchartered territory, needing to find their franchise quarterback, no door should be shut. Sign, trade, draft, it should all be on the table.
While Rudolph is the most obvious name to choose right now if you were forced to pick one, it’s hard to see the Steelers being content with the group they have. In some form or fashion, they are likely to add a quarterback this offseason. Mike Tomlin has raved about QB mobility all year and while Rudolph does somehow have the longest run of any Steeler this season, 26 yards, the Steelers are looking for someone more athletic. Quarterbacks who can move are able to bail themselves out of bad situations more often than ones who can’t.
But Rudolph will be on the Steelers’ roster next season. At worst, he’ll keep his current role. A capable backup and spot starter. That appears to be his ceiling but all things considered, the Steelers could’ve done worse.