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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Madison Williams

Could the Steelers Start Mason Rudolph Over Trubisky vs. Panthers

As the Steelers are potentially going through another quarterback shakeup as a result of Kenny Pickett’s latest injury and Mitchell Trubisky’s offensive woes, one Pittsburgh QB may be called up to take the reins—and fans are seemingly asking for him: Mason Rudolph.

Rudolph hasn’t played in a game this season, but after Pickett entered concussion protocol following the team’s 16–14 loss to the Ravens Sunday, a game in which Trubisky tossed three interceptions, Rudolph could be needed to stabilize what’s been an unstable quarterback position in Pittsburgh this season.

It’s not like he’s inexperienced. Rudolph, a third-round draft pick of the Steelers in 2018, has started 10 games, appearing in 17 total. He made eight starts for the Steelers in ‘19 following a season-ending injury to Ben Roethlisberger, leading the Steelers to a 5–3 record in that time.

Overall, Rudolph is 176-for-283 for 1,765 yards in his career, with 13 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. His 82 passer rating is higher than Pickett’s so far this season (74.9).

While the seemingly obvious choice would be to name Trubisky as Sunday’s starter vs. the Panthers, there is concern regarding the former Bears starter’s offensive struggles in his four starts this season. The Steelers started 1–2 and were trailing at halftime vs. the Jets in Week 4 when Pickett was brought in to replace a struggling Trubisky.

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Pickett started the team’s next nine games, helping bring the team that was once 2–6 to a 5–7 mark entering Week 14. Pickett left Pittsburgh’s Week 6 win over the Buccaneers after sustaining a head injury and didn’t return. He started in Week 7, but after showing symptoms strong enough to be removed from two games this season, it’s fair to ask whether Pickett should be kept on the sidelines for a week or more.

And if he’s out for an extended period of time, should the Steelers put Trubisky back out there, after a generally uninspiring performance to date in Pittsburgh?

Trubisky played well in helping the Steelers hold off the Buccaneers in Week 6, filling in during the second half for an injured Pickett, but that was forgotten Sunday. While a sagging run defense could be equally blamed for the loss, Trubisky’s three interceptions—two of them in the red zone—certainly didn’t help matters, or inspire confidence in giving him the start at Carolina in Week 15.

WPXI, Pittsburgh’s NBC affiliate, WPXI, ran a poll asking whether they would like to see Trubisky or Rudolph start vs. the Panthers. A whopping 74% of fans favored Rudolph over Trubisky, per ESPN’s Brooke Pryor.

Rudolph doesn’t seem worried about his readiness if he plays. He spoke to the media Monday and noted he’s ready to get on the field and play.

“Of course I want to play, every week and each day,” Rudolph said, via Chris Adamski of the Tribune-Review. “I want to play well, I want to practice. I take advantage of the reps I do get, but of course, any competitor wants to be out there for his team, winning and putting his hand in the pile.”

Coach Mike Tomlin has not addressed the looming quarterback situation as of Monday evening, and it is likely that he won’t until Pickett undergoes more tests.

The Steelers, at 5–8, are on the outside of the AFC playoff race and face a Panthers team that also sits at 5–8. While it’s clear Pickett is its starter should the rookie be available, it’s reasonable to ask whether Pittsburgh wants to put its last dying postseason breath in the hands of Trubisky again—or give Rudolph a shot. 

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