June 14, 2024

Rudolph to Start Regular Season Finale Despite Healthy Pickett

Written by AiBot

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Jan 2, 2024

Backstory Leading Up to the Quarterback Decision

The Pittsburgh Steelers enter Week 18 still in playoff contention, needing a win over the division rival Baltimore Ravens as well as some help to claim the 7th and final AFC spot. After a slow start to the year behind veterans Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett, the Steelers turned to Mason Rudolph in Week 10 out of desperation. (Source)

Rudolph delivered a solid performance in the Week 10 tie against Detroit and was unexpectedly named the starter for the following week’s game. While Pickett remained sidelined recovering from a concussion, Rudolph led the Steelers to a comeback win over Indianapolis and upset victory in Atlanta.

A shoulder injury sidelined Rudolph prior to Pittsburgh’s Week 14 meeting with Baltimore, allowing Pickett to regain the starting role. The rookie brought stability but inconsistent production, going 1-2 before fracturing his ankle late in a Week 16 win over Las Vegas. (Source)

Quarterback Passing Yards Passing TDs Interceptions Record as Starter
Mason Rudolph 753 1 4 2-1
Kenny Pickett 1,861 7 9 3-4

Rudolph returned from his shoulder injury to lead Pittsburgh to a decisive 16-13 win in Baltimore on New Year’s Day. Despite Pickett recovering well from ankle surgery, Mike Tomlin is sticking with the hot hand in Rudolph for the regular season finale. (Source)

Tomlin Benching Franchise Quarterback in Must-Win Game

Mike Tomlin is facing scrutiny for his decision to bench Pickett in the most important game of the season. The Steelers mortgaged significant draft capital to select Pickett 20th overall in 2022 with the intention of him becoming the franchise quarterback. After an up-and-down rookie campaign, Pickett will be spectating the first must-win game of his career. (Source)

Tomlin’s choice signals a lack of confidence in Pickett to lead the team to victory with the season hanging in the balance. It also raises questions about Rudolph’s future, as his late season audition could earn him an opportunity to compete for a starting job with another team next season rather than resigning as Pittsburgh’s backup. (Source)

Result Postseason Scenario
Win vs. BAL Steelers clinch 7th playoff seed with MIA loss/tie vs. NYJ
Loss vs. BAL Season over

Some believe Tomlin should give Pickett the chance to deliver in primetime and prove himself as the quarterback of the future. However, the team’s best opportunity to extend their season rests on the shoulders of Rudolph for Week 18. (Source)

Rudolph Rewarded After Stepping Up in Relief

Rudolph has seized his latest opportunity despite most observers writing him off. The former third round pick fell out of favor after mixed results filling in for an injured Ben Roethlisberger in 2019. Pittsburgh appeared ready to move on last offseason until failing to land a new starter in free agency or the draft. (Source)

Being passed over for Pickett as Roethlisberger’s successor left Rudolph’s future cloudy at best. However, he is delivering his finest play since entering the league at the most critical juncture of the season. Rudolph briskly moved the offense and made key throws to guide Pittsburgh to consecutive wins with the playoffs at stake. (Source)

Tomlin’s decision signals Rudolph has earned the chance to keep the Steelers’ season alive and cement himself in the team’s future plans. It serves as vindication after years of chatter that Rudolph lacked the ability or leadership skills to become a full-time starter. (Source)

2022 Passing Stats Completions Pass % Yards YPA TD INT Rating
Mason Rudolph 95 63.8% 753 7.4 1 4 76.2

Rudolph recognizes the opportunity at hand but remains focused on the task rather than personal glory. He deflected questions about possibly retaining the starting role long-term, instead emphasizing doing his job to keep the season alive this week. (Source)

Lingering Ankle Issue Clouds Pickett’s Availability

Pickett surprised many by participating fully in practice just three weeks removed from ankle surgery. He expressed confidence in playing against Seattle if needed, though Tomlin ultimately kept him inactive as an emergency option behind Rudolph. (Source)

The Steelers face questions about Pickett’s health going forward after the disappointment of him being sidelined for the biggest game of the year. Tomlin declined to provide clarity on how close Pickett came to suiting up or if he will dress as the backup in Baltimore. (Source)

Pickett initially feared his rookie campaign was over after suffering the ankle fracture, though he responded well from the December 30th surgery. Playing on the ankle this soon likely carries elevated reinjury risk, a factor that seemingly dissuaded Tomlin from clearing him for game action. (Source)

The first-round pick maintains he prepared to play against Seattle, but respected Tomlin’s decision while admitting the ankle probably needs extended rest. Pickett stands ready to contribute however possible during the high stakes regular season finale. (Source)

What Happens at Quarterback if Steelers Reach Postseason?

An imminent question looms if Pittsburgh extends their season to the playoffs – who starts at quarterback? The Steelers hope to face that dilemma in a week, though Tomlin declined to entertain the possibility with total focus on beating Baltimore. (Source)

Common logic suggests a healthy Pickett would regain the reins of the offense for the Wild Card round. Though should Rudolph lead the Steelers to an improbable playoff berth, he would have a strong case to remain the starter. (Source)

Tomlin’s excessive secrecy on his quarterback plans raises suspicion Pickett starting again hinges on Pittsburgh advancing. The team continues limiting Pickett’s practice activity because of the ankle, allowing Rudolph to take the initial practice reps. (Source)

Result Postseason Quarterback
Win & Clinch Playoff Berth Rudolph if fully healthy, Pickett otherwise
Loss & Season Over Open competition between Pickett and Rudolph

In any case, Tomlin finds himself facing complicated decisions about managing his quarterbacks during a playoff run or critical offseason. Difficult conversations await the organization about Rudolph and Pickett’s futures depending how the next few weeks unfold. (Source)

Rudolph aims to make those conversations more complex with another clutch performance against Baltimore. He recognizes the significance of this opportunity to guide the Steelers on an improbable playoff push. (Source)

Tomlin’s History of Sticking with the “Hot Hand” at Quarterback

Tomlin’s choice to start Rudolph aligns with his track record of riding the hot hand late in seasons. He exercised questionable loyalty to veterans Charlie Batch and Michael Vick to close losing campaigns earlier in his tenure. More recently Tomlin stuck with Devlin Hodges in 2019 and undrafted rookie Dwayne Haskins last December. (Source)

Tomlin’s conviction in Rudolph spearheading this playoff push expands the debate over his job security. A loss with Pickett available and healthy would further frustrate a fanbase eager to see the first-round pick in high leverage spots. It may also deepen skepticism from Steelers ownership about Tomlin’s capacity to develop a franchise quarterback. (Source)

Steelers Starting Quarterbacks Under Mike Tomlin Seasons as Primary Starter
Ben Roethlisberger 2004-2021
Mason Rudolph 5 games in 2019 & 2022
Devlin Hodges 6 games in 2019
Others Combined 7 games

Tomlin continues facing criticism for misleading remarks and lack of transparency around his team decisions. The vagueness on his quarterback depth chart furthers doubts about how he evaluates and communicates about players. How Pickett factors into future offensive plans also remains unclear at this fraught moment for the franchise. (Source)

Tomlin Gambles with Uncertain Future in Mind

Tomlin’s choice to ride or die with Rudolph reveals his uneasiness with guaranteeing Pickett the Week 18 start. The fragility of Pickett’s ankle undoubtedly factors heavily into the rationale. But Tomlin’s refusal to show his cards also hints at wavering trust in the 20-year cornerstone of the franchise. (Source)

Cynics suggest Tomlin worries about Pickett flaming out and dooming his job security long-term. Others believe Pickett starting over Rudolph now plants doubts that linger into 2024 if Pittsburgh’s season ends Sunday. Sticking with the hot hand reduces questions about overruling coordinators to play Pickett before he was fully ready. (Source)

Tomlin’s rationale aims to give the Steelers their optimal chance for the must-win game, regardless of public perception or Pickett’s pride. But the short-term gamble carries implications that could linger for years depending how the next two weeks unfold. The singular focus stays on beating Baltimore, though broader uncertainty pervades every level of the organization. (Source)




AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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