Steelers Beat Writer: ‘Mason Rudolph is Neil O’Donnell’


Getty Neil O'Donnell at quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1994.

Yesterday Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette appeared with Randy Baumann on the DVE Morning Show in Pittsburgh and made an interesting comparison between onetime Pittsburgh Steelers starter Neil O’Donnell and current backup quarterback Mason Rudolph.

Specifically, he said: “Mason Rudolph is Neil O’Donnell. You can win with Mason Rudolph, especially the way the defense has come around. But [do] you want him as your long-term guy for 15 years? Well, maybe not.”

Neil O’Donnell vs. Mason Rudolph

It’s easy to see why such a comparison would be made. For one, both were taken in similar spots in the draft. The Steelers selected O’Donnell in the third round in 1990 (70th overall), and he went on to start at least half of the team’s games every year between 1991-95, leading the Steelers to Super Bowl XXX in early 1996.

His record as a starter in Pittsburgh was 39-22, and he completed 57.1 percent of his passes for 12,867 yards with 68 TDs and 39 INTs for a passer rating of 81.8.

Mason Rudolph was selected in the third round of the 2018 draft (76th overall). To date he has a 5-3 record as a starter and he has completed 62.2 percent of his passes, with 13 TDs and 9 INTs for a passer rating of 82.0.

So far it’s an apt comparison, except that O’Donnell’s story has already been written and Rudolph may have plenty of room to grow.

Plus, O’Donnell was a long-term solution for the Steelers, and it’s a very small sample size on which to judge Rudolph.

But it is worth noting that O’Donnell played in a different era, when passing numbers and passer ratings were far lower than they are today—and a franchise QB wasn’t a prerequisite to reach the Super Bowl.

In O’Donnell’s era there were a handful of Super Bowl winning QBs who would not be considered franchise quarterbacks: I’m thinking of Doug Williams, Jeff Hostetler, Mark Rypien, Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson, each of whom won the Super Bowl once during the fifteen year period between 1987 and 2002.

Can Mason Rudolph ‘Bounce Back Mentally’?

A bigger question right now is whether Mason Rudolph can “bounce back mentally” from the challenges he faced last year.

“There’s no question that was the big issue following the Cleveland incident,” Dulac said, before reminding us that Rudolph was also knocked unconscious on the field during the home game against Baltimore and later suffered a posterior sternoclavicular dislocation against the New York Jets, which required emergency surgery and a three-day stay in the trauma unit.

“So he had three traumatic incidents, but I think they [the Steelers] saw prior to that injury and after the Cleveland game some bounce back in him.”

Now it’s up to Rudolph to show he can raise his game to another level, when and if he has to sub for Ben Roethlisberger.

Bud Dupree and his Franchise Tag Designation

During the same segment, Dulac also weighed in on whether Bud Dupree is going to get defensive end money—this in the wake of making the claim that he is not a linebacker.

Dulac maintained there is no way that the Steelers are going to acquiesce, because in light of all of the switching and substitutions in today’s NFL that would be “opening Pandora’s Box.” He also insisted that the Steelers will not sign Bud Dupree to a long-term contract extension, though it is conceivable that they will franchise him against next year.

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