clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Should the Steelers start Mason Rudolph despite Kenny Pickett likely to return Week 17?

We discuss if the Steelers should start Mason Rudolph instead of Kenny Pickett in Week 17.

Mason Rudolph #2 of the Pittsburgh Steelers drops back to pass during the first quarter of a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on August 16, 2018 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a quarterback decision to make for their Week 17 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. Starting quarterback Kenny Pickett has looked bad this season and is recovering from surgery on his ankle. Third-string quarterback Mason Rudolph pulled off a Christmas miracle and looked solid against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16. Who should get the starting nod against Seattle?

Kenny Pickett

Pickett has played 12 games this season, and the Steelers went 7-5 when he was the team’s quarterback. He has totaled 2,070 passing yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions. Yes, six passing touchdowns in 12 games. Pickett had 160 passing yards or fewer in four straight games between Weeks 8 and 11 and has only one game this season with multiple passing touchdowns.

Still, despite the struggles, Pickett was supposed to be the guy for the Steelers. While none of the Pittsburgh quarterbacks have played stellar, Pickett seemed to be the lesser of the three evils, with a lot of the blame for a struggling offense being placed on former offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

The offense somehow looked worse with Trubisky under center, and Rudolph was booed under center two short seasons ago. The situation could come down to if Pickett’s ankle is fully healthy, which we won’t know until he gets back to the practice field next week.

Mason Rudolph

The idea of voluntarily going with Rudolph under center would have been laughable when the Steelers were going into their Week 6 bye week with a 3-2 record. The team was 7-4 heading into Week 13 against the Arizona Cardinals when Mitch Trubisky was forced under center with Pickett’s injury. After three consecutive losses, chants for Rudolph filled Acrisure Stadium, and the Steelers finally obliged in Week 16.

The move to Rudolph paid off, and then some in the team’s divisional win over the Bengals in Week 16. Rudolph finished the game 17-of-27 for 290 yards with two touchdowns. In just one game, the third-stringer matched Pickett’s multi-passing touchdown game mark for the year and had more single-game passing yards.

Rudolph faced the Seahawks in Week 2 of the 2018 season after Ben Roethlisberger suffered an injury. He finished that game 12-of-19 for 112 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, but it wasn’t enough to pick up a win.

Verdict

The Steelers quarterback situation isn’t automatically solved from one good game for Rudolph or if Pickett is fully healthy. They are still going to be in a tough spot and have to decipher what it means if Pickett is healthy, and they go with Rudolph. Pickett hasn’t been benched in his short career, and the team doesn’t know how he would handle the move and then potentially having to come in later if Rudolph were to struggle. It can be tough for a starting pitcher to be relegated to the bullpen and then asked to start again.

As the starter, Pickett likely will be under center if he is deemed healthy enough. Still, it’s hard to ignore how the offense looked against Cincinnati with Rudolph at the helm. He certainly wasn’t without mistakes and still has areas to improve, but the Steelers should at least let him start the game against Seattle to see if he can keep it rolling. If the offense looks stale, they can try to go to Pickett, but the fact that he doesn’t feel like an upgrade right now is a vote in Rudolph’s favor. So, yes, the Steelers should start Rudolph on the road against the Seahawks.