The NFL is a business. And no Steelers’ fan will be playing a sad song for Mason Rudolph. But in his first real chance to start, no longer backing up Ben Roethlisberger, Rudolph may somehow exit this summer lower on the depth chart than he’s been the last two years. Mitch Trubisky remains a near-lock to start and with a second straight impressive performance, Kenny Pickett is firmly planted as the backup. That leaves Rudolph as the #3 and set to begin the season as a weekly inactive. Rudolph’s bounced between the #2 and #3 this summer and following Saturday’s win, described how he’s handled the ride.
“I think it only hardens you,” he said postgame via the team’s YouTube channel. “It only makes you better just being adaptable and going back and forth and being able to mesh with other teammates that you might not [work] with the first or second group. I can’t control it. So I was happy with the guys and the way we meshed.”
Rudolph ran as the #2 throughout the entire spring with the idea of pushing Trubisky for the starting spot. He began camp as the top backup and ran as the #2 for the first half of camp. But he was pushed down to #3 status the final week of training camp and was the third quarterback in Saturday’s game against the Jaguars. Rudolph had more total camp reps than Pickett, but only just barely.
While Rudolph has fallen down the depth chart, he has played well this season. He’s been arguably the most consistent quarterback start to finish and led a game-winning drive in last night’s win, connecting with Tyler Snead on a one-year speed out for the go-ahead score.
Through two preseason games, Rudolph is a combined 26/36 for 220 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He was the only quarterback throughout training camp not to throw a single interception, either. Nothing about his game this summer has been a negative. But he’s competing against a well-paid veteran in Mitch Trubisky and a first-round pick in Kenny Pickett, along with Rudolph’s overall body of work that strongly suggests he isn’t a long-term starter. Now, it’s a question of if he’ll remain a Steeler come Week 1. Odds are in favor he’ll stay, but if Pittsburgh wants to move on, they’d likely find a suitor willing to give up something for Rudolph, even knowing he’s under contract for just this year.