Joe Starkey: Time for Steelers to end Mason Rudolph charade

Joe Starkey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Football

PITTSBURGH — We can stop pretending now.

At least I hope we can.

For all I know, Mike Tomlin will elevate Mason Rudolph back to the second team Wednesday. Maybe that's all part of "the plan" Tomlin and his assistants keep referencing. But to what end?

Rudolph was never going to be a viable contender for the starting quarterback job and shouldn't be one for the backup job, either. It's time for the Steelers to find a taker and trade him, for his sake and theirs. If the Detroit Lions or another team should offer anything of value, general manager Omar Khan should gladly accept it and mercifully move on.

Rudolph deserves credit for preparing himself diligently and playing well in camp. Tomlin did him right, first by giving him plenty of reps in the quarterback "competition," from spring into summer, then by giving him the chance to put something of significance on tape in the first exhibition game.

Rudolph delivered a decent performance, too, although his passer rating would have been in the low 70s instead of over 100 if the ball he put right in a Seahawks defender's hands had been caught.


But you can't keep rotating three quarterbacks forever, and we all know the Steelers do not believe in Rudolph as Ben Roethlisberger's successor. Them signing maybe the best available free agent quarterback on the market and then taking one before any other team in the draft was a clue, right? And then, as if to drive the point home, they drafted another quarterback in the seventh round.

Rightly or wrongly, Mitch Trubisky has been the starter — acting as such and treated as such — since the moment he arrived. Kenny Pickett was the first-round pick — and not just any pick, but one who'd started games in five different college seasons and was about to turn 24.

Pickett's older than Mac Jones and two years older than Trey Lance, for goodness sake. I'm pretty sure he's the only man in history who played sports at Pitt longer than Carl Krauser. You don't draft an experienced guy that high to make him rot with the third team all season, depriving him of valuable backup reps in practice. You don't just bury him for a year.

In fact, you look for reasons to play him. Tomlin fell for Pickett, which is why he used a precious first-round pick on him.


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