Whenever a player is added to a certain position that seems as though there may be one too many, we have the tendency to immediately start doing the math and trying to figure out who might be on their way out. When the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Chris Oladokun, the speculation immediately started—or rather, continued—that it might be Mason Rudolph, possibly via trade, on his way out of Pittsburgh.
Based on how the offseason has gone so far, however, don’t be so sure of it. By and large, he has outperformed the other quarterbacks, particularly during the first three days of training camp. Some of that might be due to the familiarity with the offense, but offensive coordinator Matt Canada reiterated earlier today that he is in the race to start, along with Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett.
“Coach [Mike Tomlin] has been very clear that we base it on resume and what they’ve done, so Mason’s getting the second reps right now, and almost equal to, maybe slightly, a little bit less than Mitch”, he said, talking about playing time pecking order, via 93.7 The Fan in an interview with Jeff Hathorn.
“He’s being given a very fair shot up to this point in camp”, he added. “He’s made a lot of plays at times, he’s played very well at times for us, for the organization, and he’s got a great shot at it. He’s being treated that way, and his history with our players, with our system, in some cases, certainly is a positive for him”.
Since the spring, Rudolph has been taking the second-team reps behind Trubisky, their big free-agent acquisition, a former second-overall draft pick and four-year starter, who has two postseason appearances and a Pro Bowl on his resume.
Between the three in competition for the starting job (Oladokun has yet to even take a rep in team sessions), Rudolph has had the most success, with the rookie Pickett, mostly taking third-team reps, has had the most issues. But he’s also the least experienced, of course.
These are merely three-day observations in a month-long process, however, and in-stadium work will largely dictate how things go. Ultimately, what you do under the lights carries the most weight, though that’s not to diminish the importance of work on the practice field, whether that’s in Latrobe or at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
Third-year wide receiver Chase Claypool told reporters earlier today before practice that Rudolph “doesn’t get enough praise” for his own performance, describing him as the most accurate quarterback on the roster.
It’s clear that the Steelers organization, from the coaching staff to the roster, thinks more highly of him than do the fans in general, and really, the media as well (including former Steelers players). We don’t know yet how this will all unfold, but the early days at Saint Vincent College tell us to remain open to the possibility that Rudolph opens the season as starter.