The Pittsburgh Steelers have all four quarterbacks throwing during OTAs, which began on Tuesday and will continue for the next couple of weeks. Three of them are being regarded as competitors to be named the team’s first starter since 18-year veteran Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement.
Contestant number one is Mason Rudolph, the guy who’s been here for going on five years already, and who has, of course, always been a backup behind a future Hall of Famer. Contestant number two is Mitch Trubisky, a former first-round pick and starter for the Chicago Bears. Finally, contestant number three was found walking around outside, by the name of Kenny Pickett. Oh, he was also a first-round draft pick. Do the offensive linemen have a preference?
“It’s kind of all the same for us, right?”, said projected starting center Mason Cole, another one of the Steelers’ free-agent additions this offseason, when asked about the differences between the quarterbacks. “It doesn’t really matter who’s back there, we have a job to do”.
There are basically two assignments that offensive linemen have, fundamentally: block for the run or block for the pass. Obviously, that’s putting it in the most mind-numbingly simplistic context lacking all nuance, but essentially, almost everything they’re asked to do falls under those two umbrellas.
The point is, it doesn’t matter who’s running the ball, or who’s throwing the ball, because the assignment is still to block in such a way that allows the runner or passer to perform his job without impediment from the defense.
“There’s some nuances with different quarterbacks, but for the most part, it’s all the same”, Cole said. “Our job stays the same with what we have to do, how we communicate—it all stays the same. It’s not that big of an adjustment, no matter who’s back there”.
This year, there are more similarities between the quarterbacks than before, particularly with Roethlisberger during his later years, after having lost a lot of mobility. All of the quarterbacks on the roster now have some mobility, most of them above average, with Rudolph being only adequate in that regard in his ability to navigate the pocket. He did show improvements in that area last year, to his credit.
As Cole said, yes, there are nuances tied to each individual that one must learn, but that’s more like taking notes on how to tailor your job; it doesn’t fundamentally change what your job is. Whether it’s Trubisky or Pickett or Rudolph under center, Cole is still going to have the same assignment.
That’s what he’s focusing on as he gets set to enter the starting lineup for the Steelers on a full-time basis. He’ll have to ultimately earn that role, but at least for the time being, it feels like it’s his job to lose, at least as we sit here today in the first week of OTAs.