After Wednesday’s OTAs concluded for the day, the media was allowed into the locker room to speak to several players as has been common practice the first few days of OTAs. Multiple media members got to speak to QB Mason Rudolph which was provided by video via Steelers.com. When asked about any potential changes to the offense heading into the 2022 season, Rudolph assured that this won’t be the same exact system we saw in 2021.
“Yeah, there’s a lot of changes,” Rudolph said regarding the offense. “There are some tweaks and some things that I’m excited about. There’s some new terminology. I had to make some flashcards and do a little flashcard studying at the house, but I think that it’s all going to make us better. Seeing some of the new concepts on the field; it makes you excited.”
Obviously, when you have a future HOF QB in Ben Roethlisberger head to retirement this offseason, change likely is expected. Roethlisberger was at the helm of the Steelers offense since 2004, missing time here and there only due to injury or due to a suspension that sidelined him for four games back in 2010. Roethlisberger’s biggest time away due to injury occurred in 2019 when he needed season-ending surgery on his elbow, giving Rudolph a chance to play in ten games with eight starts, picking up a 5-3 QB record while completing 62.5% of his passes for 1,765 yards, 13 TDs, and nine INTs.
There were plenty of instances where it was suggested that Roethlisberger took over play calling altogether from OC Matt Canada last season, making audibles in-game and going off-script rather than going with the play that was called in. A player like Ben who has played as long as he has may have that right, but when you are dealing with Rudolph who has yet to prove he can be a quality starter in the league as well as Mitch Trubisky and rookie Kenny Pickett who are new to the team, it can be expected that Canada would make changes to the offense to accommodate for the lack of experience now in the room.
Still, despite having new winkles to the offense as a whole, Rudolph relishes the opportunity to be a guiding presence to those who have questions.
“We’ve had receivers just informally ask questions,” Rudolph continued when asked about helping out the young guys with the new schemes they are learning. “Being the oldest guy here, it’s my job to help them out whether they are a rookie or somebody who’s just getting back and learning that we have a bunch of new terminology.”
While there may be several aspects of the offense that has changed, Rudolph has familiarity on his side, having be coached under Matt Canada and QB Coach Mike Sullivan last season. Thus, you could expect a fair amount of carryover from last season to this season, even if there is new terminology to the play calls. This can allow Rudolph to use his seniority, being one of the longest-tenured offensive players on the team, to help new faces like the rookie WRs, Kenny Pickett, and Chris Oladokun.
While the new terminology may be a sign of things changing post-Ben for an offense that was likely catered to serve the veteran QB, the new “tweaks” that Rudolph may be excited about may cater to the strengths of the QBs currently in the room. As we well know, the Pittsburgh Steelers operated with a quick passing game the last several seasons, emphasizing getting the ball out fast due to Roethlisberger’s lack of mobility.
While Rudolph is no Lamar Jackson, he, along with Trubisky and Pickett, bring more mobility to the table than Ben, thus likely opening up the offense to incorporate more play action, boot rollouts, and other winkles that Ben was limited with in his final few seasons.
Another possible change to the offense could be the way Pittsburgh attacks the middle of the field and schemes up their shot plays vertically. Roethlisberger noticeably avoided the middle of the field at times as a passer and struggled to connect on the deep ball in his final few seasons in Pittsburgh.
Given the improved mobility of the guys in the room and the ability to push the ball down the field, Pittsburgh may be experimenting with different types of shot plays given their new weapons in the passing game as well as make more of a concerted effort to attack the middle of the field.
Time will tell exactly how much the offense may be changing in Canada’s second season as offensive coordinator, but given the comments by Rudolph, they may be changes Steelers fans could be excited about for 2022.