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Homistek: This Is the Fatal Flaw of Mason Rudolph




It’s going to sound as if I dislike Mason Rudolph.

I don’t.

I don’t know Mason Rudolph. It’d be insane to legitimately dislike somebody based on a handful of media appearances, practices, and gameday performances.

That said, it’s impossible to view Ruldolph’s current situation in the Steelers’ quarterback room without acknowledging a hurtful fact. If you’re a family member or friend of Rudolph’s, you might want to close this tab.

Mason Rudolph is a mediocre NFL quarterback.

That’s it. That’s his fatal flaw.

He’s mediocre.

It’s easy to root for the underdog. We all saw this narrative play out back in the 2019 season, when Ben Roethlisberger went down early, replaced by Rudolph and Devlin “Duck” Hodges.

In relief, Rudolph posted a 5-3 record. Hodges went 3-3.

Yet Hodges became the bigger cult hero in Pittsburgh. “Duck Mania” was real. The shirts were real.

Pat McAfee fueling the fire? Also real.

Years later with the Steelers’ starting quarterback position up for grabs, Rudolph once again found himself looking for respect. He wanted that job, and he felt he paid his dues learning behind Roethlisberger. After the Steelers’ 2022 training camp and preseason, Rudolph thought he did enough, too.

“I felt I competed well,” Rudolph said during a recent media scrum at the Rooney Complex. “I was happy with the way I played in camp, in practice, in games.”

Instead, Rudolph occupies spot No. 3 on the team’s depth chart.

First, the Steelers signed Mitch Trubisky. Then they drafted Kenny Pickett.

Rudolph never stood a chance. The Steelers deemed him disposable once again.

The team would rather take a shot with Trubisky –– an actual first-round draft pick –– or Pickett (another first-rounder) than the man with a “first-round grade.”

This decision, of course, caused some backlash within Steeler Nation. Suddenly, fans latched onto Rudolph and defended him. Go ahead and read the replies to this tweet if you need proof:

Why, then, is it so easy for the Steelers to kick Rudolph aside?

It’s because he’s a mediocre NFL quarterback.

He’s a 6-foot-5, clean-cut, comb-overed guy from South Carolina. He put up massive numbers at a big-time college in Oklahoma State.

Rudolph speaks like a dang politician –– and looks like one too. Tossed a live grenade during that same scrum, a question essentially asking “Do you want to be traded?,” Rudolph responded:

“Those decisions are between my agent and Omar [Khan, Steelers GM] and then the front office,” Rudolph said. “I’m going to leave that to those guys, and for now I’m on this team, and I’ll do the best I can to help the guys prepare and … do everything I can from a mental perspective to help the other two guys.”

It’s all this that spelled Rudolph’s demise in Pittsburgh.

He looks the part of a starting NFL quarterback.  His credentials check out at every level. He says all the right things, sounding more like a robot programmed to give the PR-friendly answer than a human being most times. Former Steelers GM Kevin Colbert did Rudolph no favors by saying the staff had a “first-round grade” on him, but here we are.

When you look like that and talk like that and are talked about like that, it’s reasonable to expect excellence.

Instead, Rudolph produced a 5-4-1 record as a starter, an 80.9 career QB rating, a 61.% completion percentage and a 16:11 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

It’s not bad. If Rudolph sucked, he’d be gone by now. Or, if Steelers fans expected him to suck, he’d be celebrated. Again, see: Hodges, Devlin.

That man was a world-champion duck caller from Alabama who went undrafted in 2019 before he threw on the black and gold and won a few football games. Nobody expected anything from him, so mediocrity came as a pleasant surprise. The city and its fan base could get behind that –– and did.

But Rudolph doesn’t suck. No one anticipates poor play from him, either.

On the other hand, if Rudolph brought greatness to the table, he’d secure that starting spot –– if not for the Steelers, for someone else.

Every team has eyes on everyone else across the league, and you better believe a quarterback-hungry team would’ve snatched Rudolph by now if they saw something they loved.

They didn’t (and don’t). Harsh as it may sound, Rudolph is more Josh McCown than Josh Allen.

So, look, I don’t dislike Mason Rudolph. Neither do the Steelers.

He’s just mediocre.

And that’s OK.

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