Ben Roethlisberger isn’t walking through the door again anytime soon, at least not in uniform for the Pittsburgh Steelers. And even if he did, frankly, there are many legitimate questions as to whether or not he is still good enough to be the quarterback the team needs.
There might not be another team in the NFL who has a more open question about their quarterback position right now than the Steelers, at least in terms of who will start the season opener in 2022. But if the team fails to do something drastic this offseason, that will most likely be Mason Rudolph, the four-year veteran they drafted in the third round in 2018.
Rudolph only played a relative handful of snaps last season because Roethlisberger was able to stay healthy, missing only one game after testing positive for COVID-19 the day before a game against the Detroit Lions. Rudolph started that game and led the team to a tie, in part because of two costly fumbles by his skill players in the overtime period.
In a recent ‘QB Index’ article by Gregg Rosenthal for NFL.com, Rudolph ranked 53rd in the NFL among all quarterbacks who started a game last season, out of 62 players in total, so that would be in the bottom 10. The only players ranked behind him were Tim Boyle, Nick Mullens, Garrett Gilbert, Sean Mannion, Brandon Allen, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mike Glennon, Ian Book, and Jake Fromm.
“His one start was the 16-16 tie against the Lions, a game I watched to the very end on NFL Game Pass on a Wednesday morning in mid-November just so I could confidently tell you months later that Rudolph wasn’t very good”, Rosenthal wrote.
“He threw hot when he needed touch and missed too many open throws for a conservative player. My doubts about whether that morning was time well spent are similar to my doubts about the Steelers seeing Rudolph as an important part of their future”.
The article deals specifically with quarterbacks who started last season, and specifically about their play during the 2021 season, ranking them on that metric alone. Though Roethlisberger won’t be playing in 2022, Rosenthal ranked him 29th among quarterbacks from last season:
Big Ben’s playoff outing was typical of his season. The final box score doesn’t look bad, but his limitations and desire to throw as fast as possible made the Steelers’ offense incredibly limited. The opposite was true for most of his career, with few players accomplishing more while holding on to the ball, waiting for a big play to emerge. Just look at those year-end rankings from 2013 to ’17; Ben was a consistent top-five quarterback during a loaded era at the position.
I do think Rosenthal is underselling Rudolph somewhat, but you be the judge. These are the players 33 through 52 ranked above him: Andy Dalton; Jacoby Brissett; Josh Johnson; Trey Lance; Gardner Minshew; Trevor Siemian; Colt McCoy; Geno Smith; Cam Newton; Sam Darnold; Zach Wilson; Cooper Rush; Tyrod Taylor; Nick Foles; Drew Lock; Case Keenum; Jordan Love; Mike White; Joe Flacco; and P.J. Walker.