Steelers’ Mason Rudolph Reacts to Mike Tomlin’s Portrayal of QB Depth Chart

Mason Rudolph Steelers

Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images Mason Rudolph of the Pittsburgh Steelers drops back to pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars on August 20, 2022.

As of Dec. 14, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett remains in concussion protocol, having sustained a head injury in the first quarter of this past Sunday’s 16-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. And though Pickett was at practice on Wednesday (the 14th), he was a “limited participant,” as per Pittsburgh’s first injury report of Panthers week.

That being the case, both Steelers backups — Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph — got reps in practice, with head coach Mike Tomlin having been non-committal about who would start if Pickett isn’t cleared to play by Sunday.

Mike Tomlin Labels Trubisky and Rudolph as ‘2 and 2A’

“We’ll work both guys. Both guys have remained engaged and really have been 2 and 2A, if you will,” said Tomlin, during his press conference on Dec. 13, referring to Trubisky and Rudolph and their respective places on the QB depth chart.

During a subsequent media scrum, Rudolph was asked if he feels like he’s 2A … “or a 3, for the lack of a better phrase,” said the reporter in question.

“I felt like I haven’t been active on Sundays,” quipped Rudolph, a diplomatic way of publicly disagreeing with his head coach.

It’s a response that longtime Steelers beat writer Gerry Dulac described as “the line of the year.”

Indeed there’s no reason for Rudolph to believe he’s anything more than third on the depth chart. Not only has he been inactive for every regular-season game this year, he wasn’t given much of a chance of winning the starting job during this past summer, when he was largely limited to practicing and playing preseason games with second- and third-stringers.

That being the case, there was speculation that Rudolph might be traded prior to the start of the regular season. That speculation heated up again just prior to the trade deadline. But even if some observers saw him as “attractive” trade bait, the Steelers never pulled the trigger on a deal, and it appears that Rudolph will look to sign elsewhere after he becomes an unrestricted free agent in early 2023.

Mason Rudolph vs. Mitch Trubisky vs. Kenny Pickett

For what it’s worth, the numbers say that Rudolph played better in his first 10 NFL starts than Pickett has in his first nine. Though to be fair to Pickett, Rudolph didn’t appear in a regular season game during his rookie year.

Yet Rudolph is 5-4-1 as a starter and has 16 career touchdown passes against 11 interceptions for a career passer rating of 80.9.

Pickett is 4-5 as a starter and has just four touchdown passes and eight interceptions for a passer rating of 74.9, this according to Pro Football Reference.

Meanwhile, Trubisky has won one of four starts while with the Steelers, with four touchdown passes and five interceptions and a passer rating of 78.4.

As to who will start on Sunday against the Panthers, Tomlin has said a lot depends on Pickett and whether he’s able to practice and gets cleared to play.

“If he’s able to work we’ll work him. If he’s unable to work obviously we’ll divvy those reps up between Mitch and Mason and we’ll play both guys in a practice setting in an effort to make a determination of what’s best as we lean in on the latter part of the week,” relayed Tomlin on Dec. 13.

“All three guys are sharp guys. All three have been participants in our game planning, particularly of late, and all are capable of playing the position and playing at a high level within what we’re doing right now. And so and we’ll take it day to day and play it by ear,” he concluded.

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