Steelers QB Mason Rudolph
Ceiling: 9-8, Steelers barely miss playoffs
Mason Rudolph was once highly regarded by the Steelers front office. Recently retired GM Kevin Colbert is on record saying they had a first-round grade on him when he was selected in the third round in 2018. While he hasn’t lived up to that praise, he does have a 5-4-1 record in 10 starts and has proven to be a solid backup over the past few seasons.
The biggest hurdle Rudolph has to overcome to win the starting job is a perceived lack of upside. He has very little physical talent, both as an athlete and as a passer. He should have a leg up on the others when it comes to knowing the playbook, but it only matters if Trubisky and Pickett struggle picking it up. He simply doesn’t do anything at an above-average level, which you never want to say about your starting QB.
Despite all of that, Rudolph has already shown that he can win games with a great defense backing him up. He may have been benched at points during the 2019 season, but he finished the year with a 5-3 record. He wasn’t flashy or super productive, but he was able to at least do enough to win games. Going 9-8 with the weapons they have on offense and a dominant defense is certainly possible.
Unfortunately, I doubt it would lead to a playoff berth in a loaded AFC.
Floor: 6-11, Steelers have bottom-5 offense
One “benefit” to Rudolph is that he doesn’t play aggressively enough to hurt the team on a weekly basis. Even in this worst-case scenario, I doubt the Steelers fall far below .500. The defense is too talented and the offense really can’t be worse than it was in 2021.
Rudolph would benefit from a better run game and a deeper group of weapons than he had the last time he was the starter. He is also older and better prepared for the opportunity this time around. I might even bump the floor for wins from six to eight if the AFC hadn’t gone nuclear this offseason.
The bottom line is that Rudolph is the middle ground between Trubisky and Pickett. He doesn’t have the upside of either but is less likely to crash and burn. Even so, it wouldn’t make sense for the Steelers when they have two more talented players who could be potential long-term answers.
Pittsburgh is going to face an uphill battle to make the playoffs regardless of who the QB is in 2022. What is more important is figuring out which, if any, of these guys could be their next franchise QB. They want to win of course, so I won’t be surprised if they go with one of the veterans over Pickett. But they drafted him in the first round primarily based on how experienced he is coming out of Pitt, so my hope is that they give him the nod if he can show he is ready to run the offense.
Either way, expectations for the QB position this season are going to be low after how the offense looked in Ben’s last two seasons. Any amount of improvement could mean a much better season in 2022.