Steelers Turning To Mason Rudolph At QB In Hopes Of Giving Sputtering Offense A Needed Spark

Published By: Sports Desk

Last Updated: December 19, 2023, 00:30 IST

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The Pittsburgh Steelers are turning to Mason Rudolph at quarterback in hopes of salvaging their season.

PITTSBURGH: The Pittsburgh Steelers are turning to Mason Rudolph at quarterback in hopes of salvaging their season.

Coach Mike Tomlin said Monday that Rudolph, a six-year veteran who hasn’t started a meaningful game since 2021, will start on Saturday against Cincinnati if Kenny Pickett’s surgically repaired right ankle isn’t healthy in time.

Rudolph replaces Mitch Trubisky, who struggled in losses to New England and Indianapolis while filling in for Pickett.

“We’ve got a great deal of comfort with (Rudolph),” Tomlin said. “Why are we making the change, man? We don’t like what we’re looking at and the consistency of it. What I mean is we’re not scoring enough points.”

Not by a long shot. The Steelers (7-7) are 28th in scoring and haven’t scored more than 18 points in each of their past five games, a stretch in which they’ve gone just 1-4 to squander the momentum generated by a somewhat surprising 6-3 start.

The only win during their current slide came at Cincinnati (8-6), when they rolled up 421 yards in the first game since firing offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

The good times haven’t lasted. The Steelers followed up the win over the Bengals by producing 321 yards, 264 yards and 216 yards in losses to Arizona, New England and Indianapolis. Pickett went down late in the first half against the Cardinals and Trubisky proved mistake-prone.

The No. 2 overall draft pick in 2017 and a Pro Bowler in 2020 while playing for Chicago threw three touchdowns but also three interceptions since taking over for Pickett, including a pair of poor throws against the Colts on wayward heaves downfield.

Enter Rudolph, a third-round pick in 2018 who played a large chunk of the 2019 season while Ben Roethlisberger recovered from right elbow surgery.

He’s played sparingly over the past four years, making a spot start in a meaningless season finale against Cleveland in 2020 and guiding an ugly 16-16 tie with Detroit in 2021 when Roethlisberger was placed in the COVID-19 protocol on the eve of the game.

Rudolph finished third in a three-way battle with Trubisky and Pickett to serve as Roethlisberger’s replacement in 2022. He’s served as the emergency or backup quarterback on gameday over the past two seasons and made his first appearance in nearly two years in mop-up duty in the final seconds against the Colts.

Yet with their once-promising postseason chances dwindling, Rudolph will get one perhaps final chance (in Pittsburgh anyway) to show he can be an NFL regular.

At this point, “regular” would be an improvement for the Steelers, who are likely out of wiggle room if they want to claim one of the three AFC wild-card spots.

Tomlin declined to place the blame for his team’s skid on Trubisky, saying the decision was more based on Rudolph being “deserving” of the opportunity as the Steelers try to shift the trajectory of their season.

Rudolph is 5-4-1 as a starter, with all but two of the starts coming in 2019. He hasn’t won a game in which he started and finished since a 17-12 victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 10, 2019.

Yet with Trubisky unable to shake some of the decision-making and mechanical issues that have dogged him throughout his career, Rudolph will find himself in charge of trying to snap Pittsburgh out of a funk that has Tomlin potentially facing the first losing season of his 17-year career.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – Associated Press)

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