The Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to go with Mason Rudolph as their starting quarterback in Week 17 against the Seattle Seahawks, per head coach Mike Tomlin. Kenny Pickett is said to be “in the same spot” he was last week, which is recovering from his ankle surgery. Tomlin may be using some gamesmanship in not outright naming Rudolph the starter, but at least to begin the week, Rudolph is expected to start while the team leaves the door open for a healthy Pickett to see play on Sunday.
Rudolph earned the right to start in Week 17 from how he played against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16. Make all the Christmas/holiday-related jokes about a quarterback named Rudolph winning at this time of year, but he had the best quarterback performance Pittsburgh had seen all season. Rudolph finished 17-of-27 passing for 290 yards and two touchdowns. In one game, the Steelers offense scored its most points all season and Rudolph surpassed Pickett’s highest passing yard total in a game this year by 12 yards.
Pickett has struggled throughout the season, and the blame was largely placed on former offensive coordinator Matt Canada. The former starting quarterback has 2,070 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions in 12 games this season. He has had only one multi-touchdown game so far this year. Pickett was given the benefit of the doubt with how bad Mitch Trubisky looked in relief, but unfortunately for Pickett, Rudolph looked good against Cincinnati and if Pickett isn’t fully healthy from his ankle surgery, will likely be under center to at least begin the game against Seattle.
Pittsburgh still has a shot at sneaking into the AFC playoff picture. This Week 17 matchup against Seattle is very close to a must-win game for the Steelers. They can’t be eliminated from contention with a loss, but the path gets extremely murky with a loss. Even if the Steelers win, they need the Indianapolis Colts and/or the Houston Texans to lose this week. If one of them wins, Pittsburgh needs the other to win when the matchup in Week 18. For example, if the Colts were to win in Week 17 and the Texans lose, the Steelers would need Houston to beat Indy in Week 18. Oh, and Pittsburgh will also need to beat Baltimore in Week 18. See? Murky. But it still shows how important a win in Week 17 is for the Steelers.