Steelers fans could be living a nightmare to start the 2022 season

Mason Rudolph #2 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Mason Rudolph #2 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Steelers fans want anyone but Mason Rudolph leading the charge in 2022, but here’s why I’m not willing to rule that possibility out just yet. 

We might have a legitimate quarterback competition on our hands… just not the one we hoped for. When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Kenny Pickett with the 20th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, many hoped that he would have been able to compete with Mitch Trubisky for the starting job to begin the 2022 season.

There’s still a slight chance of this happening, but that hope is fading. Despite being a 24-year-old rookie with five years of college experience under his belt, Pickett didn’t have the strong start to Steelers training camp that well all hoped for. He has been slow reading defenses and diagnosing, while his accuracy has just been so-so.

One of the only quarterback scenarios most Steelers fans don’t want to see play out is Mason Rudolph miraculously winning the starting job. Sadly, we are closer to that happening than I would have ever anticipated.

While I still wouldn’t call him the favorite, Rudolph has arguably been the best quarterback at Steelers camp so far. This is more of a slight against Trubisky and Pickett than a complement towards Rudolph.

From my first-person training camp observations, Rudolph has been the most consistent passer of the group. He has been willing to look downfield, go through his progressions, and deliver the ball on time.

Though I don’t doubt that there’s a scenario in which Mason Rudolph could be the best option for the Steelers to begin the season as the starter (thanks to his experience with the team in Matt Canada’s offense), this will be a nightmare scenario for fans if it comes to fruition.

Rudolph looking like Steelers QB1 is not a good sign

At this point in his NFL career, we have a very good understanding of who Mason Rudolph is. If we viewed him as a career backup and a former third-round draft choice (like he was), then he’s not a bad football player at all. However, if we compare him to NFL starters, Rudolph is clearly near the bottom of the league.

During his first four seasons with the Steelers, Rudolph has seen the field more than we would have liked. He has a record barely above .500 and has been among the worst in the NFL in yards per attempt and passer rating over this span, according to Pro Football Reference.

In his lone start in 2021, Rudolph’s offense couldn’t muster up more than 16 points against a Detroit Lions team that ultimately finished with just three wins last year (the Steelers finished this game in a tie).

While Rudolph might fit the bill as a capable backup, that doesn’t mean he’s the guy we want leading this team in 2022. Sadly, it looks like he is still in contention to be Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback when we kick things off on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1.

As you know, Mitch Trubiksy was brought in to be the bridge quarterback for the Steelers, but things have not gone particularly well for the veteran early in training camp. Trubisky has made some poor decisions with the football and hasn’t capitalized on his opportunity with the first-team offense.

Likewise, Kenny Pickett is a bit behind the curve right now. While I believe he has been trending in the right direction in more recent practices, the 24-year-old very much looks like a rookie still. Unless things change drastically, he won’t be prepared to start for the Steelers early in the season.

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We all know that Pickett was drafted to be the future of this team, and he will get his shot to prove himself eventually. But if Mason Rudolph opens the season as the Pittsburgh Steelers starting quarterback, we are going to have to dig for reasons to be optimistic.