PITTSBURGH, Pa. — While Mike Tomlin stated that Kenny Pickett is the penciled-in starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2024, Mason Rudolph started over the second-year quarterback in the final three games of the season and the team’s lone playoff game.
Yes, Pickett was hurt for a while but after he recovered from tightrope surgery, the team still opted to play Rudolph over the final stretch of the season. The reason, according to Steelers owner Art Rooney II, was because Rudolph displayed good quarterback play and it opened up things for the rest of the offense.
“Mason Rudolph came in and showed what we are capable of when we do get quality play at the quarterback position,” Rooney stated. “We appreciate what Mason did and we are interested in bringing Mason back.”
While Rooney expressed his belief and excitement for Pickett’s third season as the Steelers starter, Rudolph getting the endorsement from team ownership means that they believe they can be just as good with Rudolph as the starter.
“We still feel comfortable with Kenny but with that being said we can’t discount what Mason did and we can’t discount the fact that having competition will be good for everybody,” said Rooney. “Mike feels that way and we all feel that way. I say there is still more to come to see who is in the quarterback room when we start camp this summer.”
With more invested in Pickett, he is the favorite to be the starting quarterback come Week 1, but, if the team decides to bring Rudolph back, they know that they can put Rudolph into the game without much preparation and he will perform adequately.
After replacing a struggling Mitch Trubisky, who replaced an injured Pickett, Rudolph guided the Steelers to three straight victories to close the regular season and helped them clinch a Wild Card birth. While Rooney stated that the team would like to re-sign Rudolph, his four-game stretch transformed his free-agency market which means the team may face steeper competition to bring the 28-year-old back.
The difference between this free agency period and the last for Rudolph is that his market will include more teams than just the Steelers. The last time that Rudolph hit free agency, the Steelers were able to retain him without much conflict due to a lack of interest from other teams. This time around, it will not be as easy but with what he showed in the latter part of the season, coupled with his teammates’ endorsements, it would be a disservice to the team to not try to retain Rudolph’s talents.