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Mason Rudolph
Pittsburgh Steelers

Can Steelers Really Start Mason Rudolph In 2022?

  • Justin Melo
  • January 18, 2022
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Ben Roethlisberger's career is likely over. The future Canton-bound quarterback saw his Pittsburgh Steelers make a quick and swift exit from the postseason, having been truly and thoroughly defeated 42-21 by Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the wild-card round. Roethlisberger's 18th campaign with the Steelers reached an unceremonial close and Sunday's loss represents the end of an era for the Black and Yellow faithful. Long-time general manager Kevin Colbert is expected to step down, another move that represents a literal turning of the page. The Steelers now prepare to enter an offseason that will center and focus around the future of the ever-important quarterback position. Roethlisberger delivered two Super Bowl titles within his tenure and the Steelers will be anxious and hungry to return to their usual competitive state in the AFC, something they failed to truly achieve in 2021 despite backing into the postseason as the seventh and final seed. The incoming general manager will undeniably be tasked with solving several personnel-related issues. The roster appears grim at several positions, particularly on the offensive line. As far as quarterback goes, the Steelers may first search for a solution from within, as backup quarterback Mason Rudolph is largely expected to receive a legitimate opportunity to start under center for the Steelers in 2022. There's a clear and precise issue with that strategy. Rudolph has shown little reason to believe he can develop into a quality starting quarterback. A former third-round selection out of Oklahoma State, Rudolph earned just one start throughout the 2021 campaign, a less-than-ideal tie against the lowly Detroit Lions. Rudolph was rather pedestrian throughout the disappointing result, completing 30-of-50 passing attempts for 242 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Rudolph averaged an astoundingly low 4.8 yards per attempt and struggled with accuracy while failing to consistently help the Steelers' offense march down the field. A one-game sample size may seem unfair, so thankfully we have plenty of Rudolph action to analyze and digest. His performance against the Lions was a fairly accurate presentation of what he’s brought to the table as a middling quarterback thus far. Rudolph is 5-4-1 as a starter in four years, most of which occurred in 2019. For his career, Rudolph has completed just 61.46% of his passes while throwing 16 touchdowns versus 11 interceptions. He’s never shown top-32 quarterback potential. There is just no reason to believe that Rudolph, who will turn 27 years of age before the 2022 campaign officially kicks off, can develop into a legitimate starting signal-caller. Solving Pittsburgh's quarterback conundrum will prove extremely difficult. The 2022 draft class lacks a quarterback that would seem capable of immediately stepping into a starting role, and Pittsburgh’s draft positioning (20th overall) indicates they may miss out on an opportunity to select the top quarterback on their board. Pittsburgh is not expected to be a major player in the trade market for a megastar such as Aaron Rodgers or Deshaun Watson, due to affordability and the plethora of holes that have taken shape throughout the rest of their roster. The free-agent quarterback market lacks excitement, with few players qualifying as legitimate options, although Marcus Mariota and/or Mitchell Trubisky may be viewed as intriguing reclamation projects. Exploring a trade for a low-cost signal-caller such as Gardner Minshew, Colt McCoy, or Case Keenum may be worth mulling over, too. None of these options sound particularly exciting, but they all make more sense and give Pittsburgh a better chance at 2022 success than Rudolph does.