With rookie first-round quarterback Kenny Pickett in the concussion protocol entering the Week 15 matchup against the Carolina Panthers, veteran quarterbacks Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph are in a bit of a mini quarterback competition this week to see who will be the starting quarterback on the road Sunday in Carolina, should Pickett be unable to go.
That should come as no surprise based on Trubisky’s performance in the 16-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 14 at Acrisure Stadium. While he had success moving the football and throwing the ball downfield, the veteran quarterback threw three costly interceptions that did in the Steelers on the day, earning some criticism from head coach Mike Tomlin after the loss.
Citing the need to not turn the ball over, especially in the red zone, Tomlin pointedly made sure that the protection of the football – or lack thereof — was a major problem for him. Now, he’s giving Rudolph a shot to get onto the field.
After losing out to Trubisky and Pickett in training camp, despite a strong offseason and showing in training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Rudolph has been inactive all season and has had very little practice reps up to this point. With the Steelers sitting at 5-8 and the season all but over at this point, it makes sense to give Rudolph a look if Pickett can’t go.
So, it wasn’t a surprise that Rudolph and Trubisky split the first-team reps Wednesday, according to the Tribune-Review’s Joe Rutter, at practice on the South Side at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex as the Steelers prepare for a key matchup on the road with the Panthers.
Earlier in the week, Rudolph stated to reporters during a rare interview that he was unsure what the week ahead held, as far as his participation in practice with Pickett on the shelf. While Pickett did practice in a limited capacity Wednesday, Rudolph got the chance to shake off some rust and get some work in with the first team, which means he has a legitimate shot at seeing the field Sunday against the Panthers, either as the starting quarterback or in relief, should Trubisky struggle and Tomlin make a move again.
Based on how he’s handled the No. 3 duties this season, how he performed in training camp and the preseason, and based on how Trubisky has underperformed and cost the team some games (including last week’s debacle), Rudolph deserves a shot. Hopefully he has a solid week of practice and shows the coaching staff enough in limited reps to warrant a shot under the bright lights once again.