Did Mason Rudolph show enough vs. Browns to be Steelers QB of the future?

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph (2). Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph (2). Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Mason Rudolph almost led a comeback effort against the Cleveland Browns. Did he do enough to earn a shot at being the Steelers future quarterback?

There weren’t a lot of expectations for the Steelers in Week 17 against the Clevland Browns. After it was reported that players like Ben Roethlisberger, T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and Maurkice Pouncey would be sitting this one out, many expected the Browns to run away with this contest.

Cleveland needed a win to get into the tournament, while Pittsburgh had already locked up the division with a comeback win over the Indianapolis Colts in Week 16. Because of this, oddsmakers heavily favored the Browns at home in Week 17. By kickoff, Cleveland was 10-point favorites over their division rivals, courtesy of The Action Network.

But despite being heavy underdogs this week, the Steelers led a very impressive performance despite being short-handed. This was thanks in large part to the surprisingly good play of quarterback Mason Rudolph.

Expectations were reasonably low for Rudoph after watching him get benched in favor of Devlin Hodges late in the season last year. However, the third-year quarterback didn’t disappoint this week in Clevland. Though Rudolph did make a very poor interception on a play that ultimately cost Pittsburgh points, he was remarkably impressive throwing the ball down the field. His 8.1 yards per attempt were higher than any game Ben Roethlisberger has had since Week 14 of the 2018 season.

Against the Browns, Rudolph was able to compile 315 yards on 39 attempts to go with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. But despite playing with a number of star players sidelined, the Steelers were just a two-point conversion away from tying this contest. However, a failed attempt saw Pittsburgh drop this game 22-24.

Did Rudolph do enough to be Steelers QB of the future?

While Mason Rudolph’s play was admittedly impressive at times, there are still some traits that he just doesn’t possess. I loved his willingness to sling the ball down the field from the get-go –  something Ben Roethlisberger has failed to consistently do in 2020. However, his lack of mobility could really cap his upside.

When the pocket is clean and Rudolph can deliver the ball on time, Rudolph seems to excel. He has the confidence to put some air under the ball and deliver passes down the field. Unfortunately, things don’t go so well when the Steelers quarterback is under pressure. When asked to extend the play of eluding the first man, Rudolph typically will end up taking a sack or spiking the ball into the feet of the nearest receiver.

Though elite mobility is not a requirement of a franchise quarterback in the NFL, Rudolph doesn’t meet the threshold for agility and elusiveness in the pocket that we would hope for. Additionally, it’s important not to overestimate the former third-round pick based on one closing performance this year. After all, Pittsburgh still only managed 22 points on the afternoon in a loss to the Browns.

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I think Mason Rudolph is starting to prove that he could become a very capable backup quarterback in the NFL. But as far as his upside as a future franchise passer goes, I just don’t see it. I think the Steelers would still be wise to explore other options after Ben Roethlisberger is gone.