Will Mason Rudolph be the starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers at the beginning of the 2022 season? I don’t know, but I do know that it won’t be Ben Roethlisberger, and that means the offense will be run differently, even if under the same offensive coordinator, Matt Canada, who is going into his second season in that role.
Rudolph, entering his fifth season, is currently the only quarterback on the offseason roster under contract for the 2022 season, and is the favorite to succeed Roethlisberger in the starting role, barring a significant addition via trade, free agency, or the draft. This is the first time in his career since being drafted in 2018 that he is entering an offseason with a legitimate chance to be a starter—and to have an offense designed for his strengths.
“I like Matt and I’m excited to take that next step”, he told Jim Rome earlier today. “There were some concepts, there were some things that Ben had ran that Ben had been comfortable with for 10 years. I mean, no matter who the coordinator was, he was tied to some concepts, and I think there was a bit of a mesh between him and the coordinator”.
Roethlisberger played out his 18th season in the NFL with Canada as his coordinator for the first time, following tenures with Randy Fichtner, Todd Haley, and Bruce Arians as his play-caller for the majority of his career up to that. Each has found different ways to build around his shifting skill set as he aged.
“I think you get that kind of leeway when you’re an 18-year, future Hall of Fame quarterback”, Rudolph said, “but I’m excited this year to just kind of have the dialogue with Matt and move forward into kind of his bread and butter. He’s play-action guy. He’s a push-the-ball-down-the-field guy, and I think that suits my style well”.
The Steelers did somewhat significantly expand their usage of play-action in 2021, or at least the usage of RPOs, but there remains great room for expansion in various concepts that Canada was freer to employ during his college career as a play-caller.
Rudolph has previously expressed a willingness to “fully surrender” to Canada’s offensive principles and help him employ the system that he was essentially brought in to run, the reason that he was hired and then promoted into the role.
Whether or not he has either the skillset or the talent to actually see that through into a success, or to even beat out whatever competition will be brought in to challenge him later this offseason, remains to be seen, but at least he is bringing the right attitude to the job.