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Homistek: If Pickett’s Out, Let Rudolph Guide Steelers’ Sleigh




Mason Rudolph needs to stretch out his arm.

The Pittsburgh Steelers might need him next Sunday, Dec. 18, when they travel to Charlotte to face the Carolina Panthers in Week 15.

Rudolph hasn’t started for the Steelers since Nov. 14, 2021, when he led the Steelers stumbled toward the finish line in an ugly 16-16 tie against the Lions at Heinz Field.

In that one, Rudolph completed 30 of 50 passes for 242 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.

Since that time, Rudolph slowly disappeared, creeping farther and farther into the background of the Steelers’ plans.

This season, Rudolph’s been inactive for every contest, falling behind both rookie Kenny Pickett and vet Mitch Trubisky on the team’s depth chart.

But this Week 15 showdown with the Panthers might represent Rudolph’s shot to remind fans –– and Steelers brass –– what he can do.

Pickett left the Steelers’ Week 14 game against the Ravens at Acrisure Stadium with a concussion. That marks Pickett’s second diagnosed concussion of the season, which prompts concern.

At 5-8 and last in the AFC North, the Steelers technically still have a chance to make the playoffs. But that’s hardly realistic.

Does it make sense, then, to rush your recently concussed rookie quarterback back to action on the road?

Concussions are tricky –– a point evidenced by Pickett’s strange exit in that Ravens game in the first place. It’s not a bad idea to give Pickett’s noggin some rest, even if he clears protocol by Sunday.

If the Steelers do need to turn to a backup quarterback against the Panthers, Rudolph needs to get that call.

It’s not that Mitch Trubisky has been awful this season.

He made some plays and ignited the offense at times. Occasionally, he’ll impress with his athleticism and his knack for creating something out of nothing.

The tools that made him a No. 2 overall draft pick flash here and there.

But the tools that see Trubisky on his third team in six seasons flash more frequently.

Against the Ravens, Trubisky received his most significant game action since being benched for Pickett at halftime of the Steelers’ Week 4 loss to the Jets.

Taking over for Pickett in Week 14, Trubisky completed 22 of 30 passes for 276 yards and a touchdown.

Not bad –– until you add in the three interceptions, one of which occurred in the red zone and another which came just outside the red zone at the Ravens’ 23-yard line.

It’s the type of play Steelers fans witnessed from Trubisky from the jump. At this point, it feels safe to acknowledge Trubisky’s limitations.

Yes, he’ll do some great things. He’ll also shoot himself in the foot as an encore.

Mason Rudolph, meanwhile, remains an unknown in 2022.

Many fans and media members watching Rudolph work this offseason and studying his play in training camp feel he made real, noticeable strides under center.

In the 2022 preseason, Rudolph completed 26 of 39 passes (66.7%) for 220 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.

For his career, Rudolph is 5-4-1 as a starter for the Steelers. Beating the 5-8 Panthers certainly is not out of the realm of possibility for him –– especially if he’s improved, as many believe.

That’s just it: Right now, it’s only a belief. Without a chance to prove it on the field, Rudolph’s mystery remains.

Trubisky’s costly play against the Ravens should open the door to Rudolph’s return if Pickett can’t go.

If it doesn’t work out, no worries. Throw Trubisky back in on short notice.

He’s used to it.

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