We haven’t seen everything Mason Rudolph has to offer: here’s why

We get it: you don’t like Mason Rudolph, the Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 third round draft pick, of whom they developed behind Ben Roethlisberger in hopes of maybe one day taking the reins from the future Hall of Famer.

Likely, that’s the reason you’re here, as a mob of disgruntled yinzers have formed wanting the Steelers backup quarterback of the last three years to be traded. This, at the same time that the team desperately needs to find their quarterback of the future.

The naysayers are upset with Rudolph. They have no real backing for their claims of wanting him cut, other than “he sucks”.

When these folks are confronted and asked why, they can’t really answer the question. “We’ve seen enough” is typically one of the other answers.

Yet, that’s likely untrue. Ask yourself: what have you seen from Mason Rudolph?

If the 2019 season is your benchmark, along with a game or two since, then I’m sorry to inform you that you haven’t seen enough… at least not yet.

Here’s why you haven’t seen everything that Mason Rudolph has to offer, and why he’s firmly in the mix to compete for reps as a starting quarterback for the Steelers this season.

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The 2019 Season

The 2019 season looms large as the body of Rudolph’s work, yet there’s not a whole lot of negatives to take away from it.

Rudolph entered training camp competing for the backup position behind Big Ben, after sitting out his rookie season as the team’s QB3. He would win the primary backup spot, and then immediately be thrust into action after halftime of the second game of the season.

He would complete 67.02% of his passes for 646 yards, 7 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions for a 102.5 QB rating, plus he only took 3 sacks in 3.5 games – all before Earl Thomas lowered a dirty hit that sent the second-year passer into concussion protocol for two weeks.

Upon his return, Rudolph won three consecutive home games, completing 62.39% of his passes for 684 yards, 4 touchdowns and 2 picks. He took 6 sacks this time – largely due to the Rams defense led by Aaron Donald – while his QB rating dipped to 84.8.

He had his worst game of the season on a short week road trip to Cleveland which involved the Myles Garrett incident – four interceptions, of which, Mason has never thrown 3 or more picks in any other game before or after.

He would be benched in Cincy a week later after the offense couldn’t get any momentum going, only to return against a must-win against the New York Jets, where Rudolph tossed a brilliant 29-yard touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson to tie the game before half.

Unfortunately, like he stood in the pocket against Baltimore, Rudolph suffered an injury – a broken collarbone this time – that sidelined him until 2020.

However, with the good and bad that came in 2019, there were so many other mitigating factors that it’s surprising the young quarterback didn’t fold like a house of cards when viewing the other obstacles he had to overcome.

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Randy Fichtner

Does anyone have anything nice to say about the Steelers former offensive coordinator?

That’s what I think too – that people don’t. Yet, they fail to connect dots and see that not only was Fichtner Rudolph’s OC, which handicapped him greatly, but Fichtner had been promoted to that position from being the QB coach.

Then the Steelers left the former position vacant.

Without a QB coach, and a suspect OC, what else do you expect from any quarterback in that situation?

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Supporting Cast

The 2019 Steelers offense featured the following players:

The reason these names are featured so prominently is because of injuries to key players, such as JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, and Vance McDonald. Diontae Johnson was a rookie, and James Washington – who so many felt was underutilized in Pittsburgh – was the team’s leader in receiving yards.

It should come as no surprise that almost all of the names above are entirely out of the league, and were even a season later.

I see a lot of Mitchell Trubisky defenders claiming that the Chicago Bears teams he was on were “garbage” but it should be shocking that Mike Tomlin was able to win any games with the names assembled. Furthermore, does anyone put Donte Moncrief together with their Rudolph thoughts, as the butterfingered receiver was responsible for the quarterback’s first career pick? (Among other snafus that saw him release midway through the season?)

Oh, and I should remind everyone that JuJu, Diontae, and Conner all left that Browns “Garrett” game injured. (Yeah, that game. Mason’s worst.)

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Offensive Line and Sacks

I think by now you get my drift, but I have to point out that the Steelers offensive line has been in flux for years now.

Yet, Rudolph is one of the lesser sacked quarterbacks per attempt: 16 in 384 attempts in his career.

Devlin Hodges (aka “The Duck”) was sacked 16 times in 160 attempts behind the same line in 2019. (Oh and he’s supposedly more “mobile” too, right?)

Amazingly, Ben Roethlisberger was only sacked 13 times in 608 pass attempts in 2020, but 38 times in 608 attempts in 2021.

Trubisky, for reference, was sacked 111 times in 1577 attempts with the Bears. That’s nearly 50 more times than Rudolph was on average if the numbers were comparable.

One more key difference between Trubisky and Rudolph is that the former has 27 fumbles in his career while the latter, Rudolph, has 5.

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Lack of Wins

Rudolph didn’t win the Browns game. He didn’t beat the lowly winless Lions. Blah blah blah… Yeah, we know.

Did you watch the games like I did? Cool. Here’s some facts.

First, the Week 17 game at Cleveland in 2020 saw the Steelers sitting many key starters, including Big Ben. Mason Rudolph got the nod, with J.C. Hassenhauer in place of Maurkice Pouncey.

T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Joe Haden, Terrell Edmunds and several others all sat or played very little to rest for their Wild Card playoff game coming up the next week.

The Browns were in a must-win situation, and still only pulled off a two-point victory with their full squad while Rudolph became the only quarterback since (and other than) Roethlisberger to throw for over 300 yards in a game.

Against a well-rested Lions squad coming off of a bye week, Rudolph was named the starter with less than 24 hours notice. He led one of the Steelers few opening possession touchdown drives of the 2021 season before the weather turned nasty – and resulted in not one, but two overtime fumbles that resulted in a draw. (And let’s not forget his record includes losses due to JuJu and Conner both fumbling in close games that were eventually lost against the Ravens and 49ers too.)

But that’s not all…

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10 Starts

Is this the body of work we’re saying is enough to discount Mason from contending for the QB spot? 10 starts.

Mitch Trubisky has 50 starts under his belt with the Bears over a four-year span, with 46 of those games being one in which he threw 20 or more pass attempts. I’d argue with anyone who thinks Trubisky has “hidden” value or talent, but thinks they’ve seen “enough” of Rudolph to reconsider.

If Rudolph had 40 or 50 starts under his belt, then sure, we’d probably know what type of player he is. Just imagine, if you will, that the Steelers coaching staff cut Big Ben short after only 10 starts: 209 attempts, 68.4% completed for 1764 yards, 12 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. 23 sacks and a 105.4 QB rating.

You would want to see more, right?

Mason Rudolph’s ten starts amount to: 333 attempts, 60.9% completed for 2081 yards, 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. 15 sacks and a 79.4% QB rating.

I’m not sure we’ve seen enough, as Roethlisberger didn’t even throw 300 attempts in his entire rookie season. In his first three years (40 starts) Big Ben would average out to a 62.4% completion percentage, throwing for 8519 yards on 1032 attempts. He threw 52 touchdowns to 43 interceptions and was sacked a whopping 99 times.

The only difference is, the team found a way to win – via defense or just plain luck (that Bettis fumble to Vanderjagt field goal miss in Indy, anyone?)

He may not get the opportunity he’d like, but if he does, I hope that Mason Rudolph can prove his doubters wrong, because I strongly feel he still has more to show us before we can write him off as a “nobody”, “trash”, or “loser”.

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