Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said he thinks the team should protect Kenny Pickett from coming back too quickly from ankle surgery and start Mason Rudolph for one more week against the Seattle Seahawks.
Pickett has been out for three weeks undergoing surgery on Dec. 5 after he suffered a high ankle sprain in his right ankle against the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 2. He returned to practice in a limited capacity last week, and was not ruled out of playing in Saturday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals until after practice on Thursday.
In his place, Mason Rudolph made his first start of the season, after usual backup Mitch Trubisky was benched. Rudolph went out and gave the Steelers their best statistical quarterback performance in five years, throwing for 290 yards and two touchdowns as they beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 34-11.
After the game, head coach Mike Tomlin declined to announce a starting quarterback for next Sunday’s game against the Seahawks, setting off a ton of speculation about who will be the man in the huddle for the Steelers in another must-win game.
In an episode of his Footbahlin podcast that was posted on Monday, Roethlisberger said that he would go back with Rudolph to let Pickett fully heal from his injury, because of how good the veteran backup looked against the Bengals.
“I think you go with Mason,” Roethlisberger said. “Listen, Kenny’s your future. Kenny is your guy. I think you need to protect him a little bit, too. Obviously, you’d like to get him on the field and play, but if he’s not one hundred percent, why not give Mason a shot? What he did this week – 34 points, threw for 200, almost 300 yards – seemed to kind of put a little spark into the team. I’d stay with him for another week.”
On Monday, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that Pickett will be able to return from his injury this week, meaning that Tomlin will have to make a choice between his healthy starter and his productive backup.