Things have been spiraling out of control for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the month of December. After sitting on a 7-4 record and firmly in the playoff race, Mike Tomlin's team has lost three straight games and has plummeted to the 10th seed in the AFC.
Pittsburgh's playoff hopes hang by a thread, and there are fingers to point at both the players and the coaching staff. However, the pedestrian quarterback play is one of the biggest reasons why this team sits on a .500 record entering Week 16 despite recently playing what should have been the easiest stretch on their schedule.
Before Kenny Pickett suffered an ankle injury in the first half against the Cardinals in Week 13, fans were already questioning if the former first-round pick was the best option on the team. In 12 starts, Pickett was able to muster up just 6 touchdown passes and barely 15 offensive points per game.
With Mitch Trubisky, however, things have gone from bad to worse. In addition to being unable to sustain drives or make big plays, Trubisky was also reckless with the football. He has thrown 5 interceptions on just 202 snaps this season, per Pro Football Reference.
Things got so bad against the Colts that Tomlin ultimately benched Trubisky when the game was already unwinnable -- turning to third-string quarterback Mason Rudolph with under two minutes remaining and down multiple scores.
This was largely a desperation move, as Mike Tomlin had no intention of ever turning to his QB3 this season. Thus, fans have the right to ask: is Mason Rudolph even an upgrade over the unspectacular Mitch Trubisky?
Maason Rudolph might be the lesser of two evils for the Steelers
The answer isn't so cut and dry. Remember, we haven't seen Rudolph appear in more than one game in a season since filling in for an injured Ben Roethlisberger all the way back in 2019. Trubisky has a bigger and far more recent sample of play, but this actually works against him as the veteran has botched every opportunity to prove himself this year.
This gives the advantage to Rudolph. When he was forced to start for the Steelers in his first NFL action in 2019, Rudolph's offense struggled, but he occasionally was able to make the big play down the field (more often than not to WR James Washington).
While Rudolph does have the desired size of a pocket-passing quarterback (6'5'', 235 pounds), his lumbering movement skills and subpar athletic traits make him a statue in the pocket at times if the protection doesn't hold up. Rudolph also has a tendency to get gun-shy at times and will look for the checkdown option rather than going with the high-upside throw.
However, after seeing Trubisky's carelessness with the football, it's unlikely that Mason Rudolph will make as many bone-headed mistakes. Rudolph doesn't have spectacular tools and the upside is likely limited with him on the field, but he's the safe play for this game. It remains to be seen if he can run this offense any better than Trubisky, but he might be the lesser of two evils to deploy at quarterback against the Bengals in Week 16.