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Mason Rudolph: Believe It or Not

Following Week 15 of the 2023 season, it looked as though the Steelers were on the brink of their first losing season in 20 years. Pittsburgh had just suffered a brutal loss to the Colts resulting in a three-game losing streak. The offense had been stagnant for the majority of the year and was truthfully painful to watch. It looked as if the season was a wash. Then, enter one Mason Rudolph at QB for Week 16.

When the news broke that Rudolph would get the start, there was plenty of speculation and criticism from fans across social media. Steelers Nation was an extremely frustrated fan base, and the approval of #2 even having a roster spot was low. His starting on Sundays, to many fans, was unfathomable. Despite the criticism and speculation regarding how he would perform, Rudolph defied the expectations of many and helped the Steelers capture a 34-11 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers ended the season on a three-game win streak and clinched a playoff berth as the #7 seed in the AFC. Despite a loss to the Buffalo Bills, the season had turned around in the final weeks. In a season with no true answer at quarterback, an offense that was inefficient for the vast majority of the year, and a change mid-season at offensive coordinator, this turnaround was as successful as a fan could have hoped for.

Looking forward to the 2024 season, the Steelers still do not have a clear answer at quarterback. Former first-round pick, Kenny Pickett, has not performed to the level that many fans had hoped for and expected. The Mitch Trubisky experiment has been attempted and failed. Mason Rudolph is set to be a free agent, and there are vast differences of opinions regarding whether or not the Steelers should pursue his resigning. It seems there are two schools of thought on the matter. Does Mason Rudolph truly have game? Some believe it. Some don’t. This writer’s take on the matter is to believe it. Despite the public disdain for the man over the majority of his NFL career, Mason Rudolph does have game.

Before this opinion is quickly dismissed, let’s do a quick stat comparison:

Kenny Pickett through his last 12 games:

o   201 completions on 324 attempts (62.6% completions)

o   2,070 yards

o   6 touchdowns

o   4 interceptions

o   Sacked 23 times

o   Passer Rating: 81.4

Mitch Trubisky through his last 12 games:

o   184 completions on 287 attempts (64.1% completions)

o   1,884 yards

o   8 touchdowns

o   10 interceptions

o   Sacked 18 times

o   Passer Rating: 77.0

Mason Rudolph through his last 12 games (including playoffs):

o   137 completions on 214 attempts (64.0% completions)

o   1,549 yards

o   8 touchdowns

o   3 interceptions

o   Sacked 8 times

o   Passer Rating: 94.3

While Rudolph may have the least amount of passing yards over a 12-game span, he has a significantly higher passer rating and has thrown the least interceptions.

Going beyond the numbers, something else happened with Rudolph at the helm this past season: Fans had something to make them believe again. For the first time all season, the offense was more consistently producing points. The passing game was able to compliment the running game. The defense was spending less time per game on the field, and Pittsburgh was playing better complimentary football. Going into the playoffs, there was belief that Buffalo could be beaten. Although the game was ultimately lost, Pittsburgh remained within striking distance against a team loaded with talent and on a hot streak entering the postseason. No other quarterback on the roster breathed life into the offense as the starter in the way that Rudolph did.

Considering all this, it still begs some questions. Is Rudolph comparable to Roethlisberger? No. At Rudolph’s age, Roethlisberger was a two-time Super Bowl champion. He is a future first ballot Hall of Famer. At least at this point in time, the comparison is not close. Will Rudolph ever be an “elite” quarterback and in the same conversation as Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen? It is hard to definitively say never, but his current body of work says no. Further, Mahomes and Allen are once-in-a-generation talents. They were blessed with unbelievable athletic ability that elevates them above most of their competitors. The comparison is almost unfair. But has Rudolph shown that he can be a solid starter in the NFL? Yes, especially based on his performance this season.

It’s true that Rudolph may never become the third great franchise quarterback in Steelers history. However, until those enormous shoes can be filled, a solid NFL veteran who has proved themselves a respectable starter may be the team’s best option. Only time will tell where Rudolph’s football future lies, but it would not be the worst turn of events if it was under center on Sunday afternoons in Pittsburgh next season. Rudolph has game: believe it.

**Statistics acquired from**


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