The hot topic in Pittsburgh this weekend is Mitch Trubisky versus Mason Rudolph if Kenny Pickett isn’t cleared from his concussion. With Trubisky and Rudolph splitting first-team reps, there seems to be a real battle to be next-man-up. But speaking with reporters Thursday, OC Matt Canada downplayed the story.
As tweeted by ESPN’s Brooke Pryor, Canada said the Steelers approach is standard with an injured starter.
Per a team transcript, here’s more on what Canada had to say.
“Mason’s been a third that hasn’t had a lot of reps at all. So ,you still want to prepare your football team to get ready to play. I don’t think it’s probably that abnormal to get them both ready, give them reps. We’ll obviously have a plan with that, and we’ll see where we’re at as things come down with the protocol through today and tomorrow.”
That seems like questionable logic. Just in the way the #2 doesn’t split first team reps with the #1, the #3 wouldn’t be splitting precious starting reps with the #2 unless there was a real battle occurring. The #3 would still get reps, second-team work, but based on reporting, it sounds like what’s happened this week is going beyond that.
Based on the tea leaves, it sounds like Rudolph has a very real chance to start to jump Trubisky and make his first appearance of the season Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Trubisky has functioned as the clear #2 since being benched in Week 4. But he threw three costly interceptions in Week 14’s loss to Baltimore, a defeat that essentially ends Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes, and the Steelers can’t have a quarterback who turns the football over.
Rudolph hasn’t appeared in a game since Week 16 last season, mop up duty in a blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. His last start came in Week 10, a 16-16 draw versus the Detroit Lions. A free agent after the season, this could be Rudolph’s chance to play for the Steelers. It’s almost certain he’ll look to sign elsewhere come the offseason after being relegated to a third-string role since the season began. The Steelers had the chance to trade him this summer but opted to hold onto him instead.
But Canada has every incentive to downplay the situation and take eyes off the quarterback battle. As of this writing, it’s still totally unknown which QB will start this weekend. It could be Pickett, working his way through concussion protocol. It could be Trubisky or it could be Rudolph. And no one yet knows when we’ll get an answer. Perhaps by tomorrow when the Steelers are likely to make a determination on whether or not Pickett will be able to play.