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Insider Confirms Russell Wilson Signing Changed Course for Mason Rudolph



Steelers Quarterback Mason Rudolph

The Pittsburgh Steelers completely revamped their quarterback room this offseason by adding Russell Wilson, Justin Fields and Kyle Allen. Many thought Mason Rudolph might have returned after stellar play down the stretch, leading the Steelers to three straight wins and a wild-card playoff berth.

The Steelers had other ideas, however. Kenny Pickett, Mitch Trubisky and Rudolph combined for just 13 touchdown passed last season. Over the last two seasons, the former Steelers quarterbacks compiled just 25 touchdown passes.

Massive changes were needed, and general manager Omar Khan and company did just that.

According to Aditi Kinkhabwala of CBS Sports, Pickett was explicitly told by the Steelers that Russell Wilson would start, reneging on the pledge he’d been given that after two years of chaos, he’d finally be put in position to succeed. Pickett wasn’t pleased with the miscommunication and requested a trade. The Steelers obliged and shipped him to the cross-state Philadelphia Eagles.

In his introductory press conference with the Philadelphia Eagles, quarterback Kenny Pickett revealed that he felt like he handled his departure from Pittsburgh the right way.

“I think the communication is what it is. It was behind closed doors. I’m confident with the way I handled it,” Pickett said.

During an appearance on the Minus Three Podcast with Dave Dameshek, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic confirmed that the Wilson signing was the writing on the wall for Rudolph that his time in Pittsburgh was up.

“Mason wanted to sign back, they wanted him to sign him back. He talked to the team that Sunday afternoon and got some weird vibes,” Kaboly said. “Then an soon as Russell signed, or sent out his Renegade, it was almost instantly saying, ‘I’m pursuing other places. Obviously, I’m getting disrespected. They don’t want me here, I’m going somewhere else.’ If Russell does not sign, does not send out the Renegade thing, it’s Kenny Pickett probably number one, Mason Rudolph number two right now.”

Rudolph ended up signing a one-year, $3.62 million deal with the Tennessee Titans in free agency. He’ll serve as the backup to second-year quarterback Will Levis in Nashville.

The 28-year-old Rudolph was the final member of the Steelers’ 2018 NFL Draft class that remained on the team. He spent six seasons in Pittsburgh, playing in 21 games and making 13 starts.

His most extensive playing time came in 2019, when he was the backup to Ben Roethlisberger and was thrust into a starting role when Roethlisberger was lost for the season to an elbow injury in the first half of Week 2.

Rudolph started eight games and completed 176 of 283 passes (62.2%) for 1,765 yards (6.2 yards per attempt) and an 82.0 passer rating. Rudolph dealt with two injuries of his own that forced him from action, and he was benched at one point during the season for former fourth-stringer Devlin “Duck” Hodges.

Rudolph returned to a backup role after that, making one start each behind Roethlisberger in 2020 and 2021. In 2022, he entered a three-way competition for quarterback with free agent Mitch Trubisky and first-round draft pick Kenny Pickett and finished in third. He was active for just one game all season and did not make an appearance.

He was a free agent last offseason, but got no significant offers and decided to return to Pittsburgh to again be the No. 3 quarterback. After Pickett was lost to a high-ankle sprain late in the season, and Trubisky struggled in two starts, the Steelers turned to Rudolph for the final three games of the regular season.

Rudolph responded with the best play of his career, completing 55 of 75 (74.3%) for 719 yards (10.5 yards per attempt) and a 118.0 quarterback rating. He led the Steelers to three straight victories and a playoff spot, before losing in the Wild Card round to the Buffalo Bills.

Rudolph’s strong 2023 season got him some offers in free agency that weren’t there last year, and he lands in a strong position to back up Levis in Tennessee. The former second-round pick had an up-and-down rookie season, and is positioned to be a potential future long-term starter, but is less proven than many other first-rank starters.

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Jesus Christani
Jesus Christani
May 15, 2024 7:55 pm

I always felt like Mason would’ve been a serviceable Neil O’Donnell-type QB for The Pittsburgh Steelers if Trubisky and Pickett wouldn’t have shown up… As the kids use to say, “It is what it is.” The Steelers will ride with Super Bowl Champion, Russell Wilson, in 2024…

Last edited 3 days ago by Jesus Christani
May 16, 2024 12:04 am

Good analogy and that comparison seems accurate. I’m happy Rudolph went out on a positive for his career winning those games to secure a playoff berth.

May 16, 2024 12:14 am

Yea, that must have felt awkward for Khan and Tomlin because I’m sure they never saw that coming with Wilson coming in with a plan to win as a Steeler. It was a deal they couldn’t refuse and changed the landscape of the team in the process. In the end it worked out very good for all involved. Kenny went to a solid team that was where his heart was anyhow and Rudolph is the true veteran QB on a team that’s rebuilding with some excellent young players.