April 20, 2024

QB Mason Rudolph Speaks Out on Steelers Offense for Bengals Matchup

A2018 third-round pick, Mason Rudolph was once considered the potential heir to Ben Roethlisberger. One could argue, though, that ended on November 24, 2019 when Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin benched Rudolph at halftime against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Since then, Rudolph has started just two games over the last four years.

But in Week 16, he will receive another opportunity, ironically, against the team that officially killed his hopes to be a franchise quarterback — the Bengals.

Not that Rudolph is thinking about that. While talking to the media on December 19, the 28-year-old made it clear where his focus is heading into his first start since November 14, 2021.

“I’m not worried about showing anything,” Rudolph told the media. “We’re about winning the game this week.

“I think we want to obviously move the chains and score points,” added Rudolph. “But, that doesn’t mean you have to be foolish with the football. That’s it. Find the open guy and take what the defense gives you. Check the ball down when you need to, and don’t try to be the hero.

“And I think when you think like that, you don’t put too much pressure on yourself and play smooth.”

Steelers’ Mason Rudolph to Rely on Relationships in Week 16?

Starting a quarterback who has played just 6 snaps in about two years in a must-win game doesn’t sound like a good plan. But Rudolph has been in Pittsburgh’s offense longer than either Kenny Pickett or Mitch Trubisky.

Rudolph is also the only current Steelers quarterback who worked with Roethlisberger on a daily basis.

The 28-year-old suggested that he will lean on those relationships and past experiences against the Bengals.

“I think with (quarterbacks coach) Mike Sullivan, having him for my third season now and be in the room with a guy who’s done it at a high level for a long time and learning everything I can about the game of football, I think when I go out there I’m a little bit more relaxed and calm,” Rudolph told reporters. “I understand the game. It’s cliche, but I think it has slowed down, and you gain confidence from that.”

Rudolph added that his teammates are thrilled about his opportunity.

“I’ve got a lot of good relationships with the guys in the locker room,” Rudolph said. “I think anytime you’re here as long as I’ve been here, you had better have some or you’re probably not a good dude. But yeah, guys are excited for me and I’m excited to go out there.”

Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson arrived in Pittsburgh as a third-round pick in 2019. Rudolph was the team’s starting quarterback by the third week of his rookie season.

“I’m real familiar with Mason,” Johnson told reporters. “He brings that grit that you’re looking for, that he’s not going to give up. He’s going to come in and do his job at 100 percent.

“I have full confidence in Mason that he’s going to come in and do his job and get everyone the ball. It’s our job to just rally around him.”

The Steelers hope that familiarity will lead to another Johnson touchdown. After only 1 score in a 25-game span, Johnson has reached the end zone in three consecutive games.

QB Kenny Pickett Returns to Steelers Practice

Tomlin named Rudolph the Steelers starting quarterback for Week 16. But that’s under the assumption Pickett cannot play.

ESPN’s Brooke Pryor reported Pickett was back on the practice field on December 19 for the first time since ankle surgery. His return wasn’t unexpected.

Tomlin told reporters on December 18 that the team would test Pickett’s ankle throughout the week to see how he responds. Specifically, Tomlin said the team would “leave the door ajar” to the possibility of Pickett playing.

But Tomlin also added that the team is focused on Rudolph starting.

Pickett underwent surgery on December 4 after suffering a right ankle injury versus the Arizona Cardinals. The Pittsburgh-Post Gazette’s Gerry Dulac reported after the surgery that Pickett would miss 2-4 weeks.

The Steelers will host the Bengals on December 23. The matchup will be 19 days after Pickett’s surgery.

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