The Steelers are headed to the playoffs with the 2023 NFL regular season in the books, and one of the biggest storylines surrounding the team has been Mason Rudolph starting in place of former Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett.
This is far from the first time Rudolph has found himself at the helm throughout his career, but it’s a bit surprising that Pickett, a former first-round pick, is watching from the sidelines.
Here’s everything to know about the situation and what Rudolph has accomplished so far.
Why is Mason Rudolph starting for the Steelers?
There has been a lot of speculation surrounding why Rudolph is starting over Pickett, which originally began in Week 16 while Pickett was sidelined with an ankle injury. Pickett actually went down in Week 13, but Mitchell Trubisky got first crack at righting the ship. He faltered in his two starts, opening the door for Rudolph in Week 16.
Rudolph and the Steelers have run the tables in his three starts, taking down the Bengals 34-11, Seahawks 30-23, and depleted Ravens 17-10.
Pittsburgh clearly found a new sense of firepower on offense, as the team has crossed 30 points in Rudolph’s first start for the first time since the 37-30 loss to the Bengals on Nov. 20, 2022.
With this and some of the murkiness that surrounded Pickett’s injury status, many were wondering if the team would simply roll with Rudolph moving forward, even if Pickett is healthy enough to take the field. That was answered well ahead of Pittsburgh’s first playoff game by coach Mike Tomlin.
“We’ll stay with Mason Rudolph,” Tomlin said on Tuesday. “We’re just simply staying with the hot hand and not disrupting the apple cart. He’s delivered, we’ve delivered, and so, we will continue in that vein.”
It’s clear Tomlin is pleased with what Rudolph has been doing on the field.
“He’s done a good job, and we’ve done a good job in the most recent two weeks,” Tomlin said. “We’ve taken care of the ball, he’s taken care of the ball. We’ve scored points at a rate at which we hadn’t done to this point this year. And with the urgency of the moment and because of those reasons, we’re going to leave the ball in his hands.”
Pickett took second-team reps in practice ahead of Week 18 amid rumors that he refused to dress the week before against the Seahawks if he was not starting.
“There was no talk of me being a backup quarterback this week in terms of being a two,” Pickett explained. “If I was healthy enough to play and the trainers and coaches felt like I would look good enough to play, I was going to start and play. If they believed I was not, which they believed that I was not, I was not going to dress and suit up for the game. … This week, I’m now the two. They feel good, four weeks out of the surgery, for me to dress and be the two, so I will be the two and do what I have to do to be ready to go for Baltimore.”
Mason Rudolph 2023 stats
Rudolph has seen action in four games to this point this season. Here’s a look at how Rudolph has performed statistically throughout the 2023 season in relief of Pickett.
Rudolph has not finished a game in which he’s started this season with less than a 63-percent completion rate, reaching a high of 90 percent against the Ravens