Here the Steelers are, in the most predictable spot possible. Needing a win in Week 18 and some help around the AFC. It didn’t seem possible for Pittsburgh to get in after the terrible showings against the Cardinals, Patriots, and Colts. A tale as old as time, the Steelers can’t handle business against teams they should.
But now the Steelers find themselves back in the mix, potentially stealing a playoff spot in the AFC, and it’s on the back of a guy you wouldn’t expect. Mason Rudolph, the guy Pittsburgh hated not even three months ago has been Pittsburgh’s favorite athlete over the past couple of weeks,
Rudolph Saved The Steelers Season, Not Just Christmas
After Kenny Pickett went down with an ankle injury and Mitch Trubisky all but soiled the season, Rudolph rises from the ashes to capitalize on the opportunity he’s been waiting so long for. The former Oklahoma State gunslinger has sat in the quarterback room in Pittsburgh for a while now and despite being one of the most unliked Steelers in recent memory, Rudolph hasn’t let it affect him. He continues to be a consummate pro day in and day out.
In his two starts the Steelers offense has seen a massive jump. Maybe it’s the fact that Canada is gone, or maybe Mason Rudolph is just that guy. Who knows.
Rudolph has posted back-to-back good wins, putting up 290 passing yards and two touchdowns against the Bengals and 274 passing yards against the Seahawks behind a great day for the Steelers running backs. Rudolph has also posted a 117.1 Pass Rating, good enough for second-best across the NFL over the past two weeks. Impressive stuff.
Tomlin has already named Rudolph the Steelers starter in the must-win week 18 clash with the Baltimore Ravens. It is unknown at this point if the Ravens will rest players after locking up the AFC’s first seed, but Mason Rudolph’s work is cut out for him. Just win baby.
What Does This Mean For Pickett?
Reports say the Pickett was healthy for the Seahawks game, but still wasn’t active. Weird. Rumors have swirled from Pittsburgh’s least-favorite radio host that Pickett refused to back up Mason Rudolph. While we don’t know the extent of the truth there, that feels out of character for Pickett. It doesn’t seem like something he would do, but who knows? He even approached the media the next day to clear things up, with Cam Heyward and Christian Kuntz backing him up on Heyward's podcast, Not Just Football.
Pickett did look good in his one full start without being held back by Matt Canada, going 24/33 with 278 yards and a win against the Bengals where the Steelers put up 421 total yards in week 12 before getting injured in the week 13 game against the Cardinals.
But you can’t blame Tomlin for going with the hot hand. Rudolph has this team juiced up on the offensive side of the ball. The game against the Seahawks was the first time in a long time that it felt like the Steelers offense was carrying the defense. Weird.
This doesn’t feel great for the future of Kenny Pickett in Pittsburgh, but at the end of the day who knows? With likely a new offensive coordinator next year, everything is up in the air. Maybe this is all earning Rudolph a contract elsewhere next season. Maybe Pittsburgh brings in a different veteran to compete with Pickett at Training Camp in Latrobe next year. Is Russell Wilson a real possibility? Who knows, who cares at the moment? We’re on to Baltimore.
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