Steelers Eye Mason Rudolph as QB Backup vs. Bengals

Steelers quarterback situation intensifies amid recent performance concerns

by Zain ul Abedin
Steelers Eye Mason Rudolph as QB Backup vs. Bengals
© Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Pittsburgh is buzzing with anticipation as the calls for Mason Rudolph have been answered. The Pittsburgh Steelers, in a strategic move announced by head coach Mike Tomlin on Monday, are set to hand the reins to veteran quarterback Mason Rudolph for their Week 16 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.

This decision hinges on the availability of their usual top choice, Kenny Pickett, whose return from an ankle injury remains uncertain. Addressing the media, Coach Tomlin stated, "As I stand here today, Mason Rudolph is the guy with the ball." This pivotal move places Rudolph at the forefront of the Steelers' offensive strategy, supplanting Mitchell Trubisky, who had stepped in as the second-string quarterback for the past two games instead of the injured Pickett.

Kenny Pickett has been sidelined since Week 13 due to a high ankle sprain requiring surgical intervention. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on December 16 that Pickett's return is more probable for Week 17 when the Steelers face off against the Seattle Seahawks on New Year's Eve.

However, there remains a slim possibility of his comeback in time for this Saturday's clash with the Bengals.

Trubisky's Struggles, Rudolph's Experience

Mitchell Trubisky, during his recent starts, left much to be desired.

While he showed promise by completing 22 of 35 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown in his Week 14 start, his performance also included a costly interception that contributed to a New England Patriots touchdown in a Thursday night defeat.

The Steelers' offense encountered significant challenges during this loss, with fans at Acrisure Stadium audibly expressing their preference for Rudolph. Nine days later, Trubisky was benched in the second half of a 30-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts following his second interception.

Mason Rudolph brings valuable starting experience garnered over his five-year NFL career. In 2019, he stepped in for the injured Ben Roethlisberger, starting eight games and boasting a 5-3 record in those matchups. Rudolph displayed prowess by completing 62.2 percent of his passes, amassing 1,765 yards, and delivering a 13-9 TD-INT ratio.

Despite this, he has started just two games since then and found himself third on the depth chart following the Steelers' acquisition of Trubisky during the 2022 offseason. Coach Tomlin explained the rationale behind the change: "As we sit here today, it is our intention to give Mason Rudolph an opportunity to start.

He's a veteran guy. He's a backup, but he's also a veteran guy. He's been in our program a long time. He's here for those reasons. We've got a great deal of comfort with him." The Steelers face a challenging path with three weeks remaining in the 2023 regular season.

Their recent three-game losing streak, with Trubisky as the starting quarterback, has jeopardized their playoff aspirations. The upcoming matches against the Bengals, Seahawks, and Ravens—all playoff-contending teams—will determine their postseason fate.

To keep their playoff hopes alive, the Steelers will likely need to secure victories in all remaining games, making Rudolph's role as the starting quarterback pivotal in their quest for postseason glory.

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