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Tomlin: Steelers Will Start Mason Rudolph against Ravens



Steelers QB Mason Rudolph
Steelers QB Mason Rudolph celebrates against the Cincinnati Bengals, Dec. 23, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — Mike Tomlin has named Mason Rudolph his starting quarterback against the Baltimore Ravens for a pivotal Week 18 clash that could get them into the playoffs. While Kenny Pickett’s availability is now less in question and professionals cleared him, they will ride the hot hand that Rudolph has given them over the last two weeks.

“I think Kenny’s availability is less in question this week and I anticipate he will be able to practice,” Tomlin said. “That being said, we’re going to leave the ball in Mason Rudolph’s hands. He’s done a good job and we’ve done a good job in the most recent two weeks. We’ve taken care of the ball, he’s taken care of the ball, and we’ve scored points at a rate at which we hadn’t done at a point this year. With the urgency of the moment, we’re going to leave the ball in his hands. But I say all of those things with the understanding that Kenny is very capable, specifically when it pertains to this matchup. Kenny has led us to victory.”

On the season, Mason Rudolph is 37 of 54 for 567 yards. He’s completed 68.5% of his passes, has not thrown an interception compared to two touchdowns, and has a passer rating of 115.3. It’s only two games, but the last time the Steelers had a quarterback finish the season with a passer rating over 100 was Ben Roethlisberger in 2014. The last time any quarterback finished a year with a passer rating as high as Rudolph’s is right now was in 2006, when Charlie Batch finished with a 121.0 in parts of eight games.

The team will move forward with Rudolph, but Tomlin did not commit to who would be the starter in the playoffs if that happened, shrugging it off as a fruitless hypothetical for them to consider. Now, they will hope that Rudolph can recreate his magic of the last two weeks against a stout, but potentially more limited Ravens defense as they look to sit starters in a game that has no gain for them. It’s Rudolph’s confidence that has helped galvanize a group that needed some shock to come back from a three game losing streak.

“He has a great deal of confidence in himself, and it’s real. I think that’s contagious,” Tomlin said.

Rudolph’s statistical performance has certainly been much better than the actual grading of his quarterback play. Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of 65.0 in his game against the Bengals, the one that was statistically the best for a Steelers quarterback since 2018.

Now, the toughest test against the fourth-ranked defense in the NFL will give Rudolph an opportunity to show what he can do for a third straight must-win game.