The Steelers have scrambled the quarterback depth chart now that Kenny Pickett is out possibly until the final game of the season. Mitch Trubisky is the starter, with Mason Rudolph as the backup.
The second-team quarterback sometimes is more popular than the first. And the Steelers faithful may not be thrilled with Trubisky, last year’s starter before Pickett replaced him. So what about Rudolph? Steelers coach Mike Tomlin gave reasons why it’s not a good idea to toss Rudolph into the mix. Basically, it’s about inactivity since he hasn’t played in a game since 2021.
“He’s rusty from a physical rep standpoint, certainly,” Tomlin told reporters. “But he’s involved in every meeting, in every walkthrough. He stands behind the guy who’s actually taking the physical reps. And so he does everything in his power to ready himself, and obviously he’s making throws and he’s maintaining his physical regimen.
“And so there’s a component in there that’s missing when you’re talking about a guy at the third quarterback position,” Tomlin said. “That’s the in-helmet perspective on our work. That’s what he lacks, and that’s what makes performance somewhat of a projection when you’re talking about a third quarterback.”
Another reporter asked the Steelers head coach if Rudolph could play.
“When pressed,” Tomlin said. “But it’s not ideal, because of the lack of in-helmet perspective on the work.”
No matter the starter at QB, Steelers can’t afford to lose games
The 7-5 Steelers face the two-win Patriots tonight. Both teams are offensively challenged. New England hasn’t even cracked 10 points in the past three games. Coach Bill Belichick has tried jump-starting the offense, going from Mac Jones to Bailey Zappe. But nothing works.
So the Steelers could probably lean into their running game and not so much on Trubisky winning the contest with his arm. This should be a winnable game for Pittsburgh. Then again, last week’s was as well. But the Cardinals knocked off the Steelers, a team in hopes of a playoff berth.
Trubisky, a one-time No. 2 pick of the NFL Draft, led the Bears to the playoffs in 2018. A year ago, Trubisky was 2-3 as the Steelers starter before Pickett replaced him in the lineup. Trubisky has played in three games this season in relief of Pickett, who has dealt with rib, knee and ankle issues. But until this week, none of the injuries kept Pickett from a start.
Ultimately, Tomlin picked Trubisky to start these critical December games. Rudolph has started 10 games as a Steelers quarterback. But he spent far more time as the third stringer.
Here’s how Tomlin described Trubisky:
“He has an outgoing and welcoming personality, he’s a good communicator,” Tomlin said of Tribusky earlier this week. “He’s been a franchise quarterback before so he’s comfortable in those shoes. He doesn’t behave like a backup that’s being elevated and I think those are the things that make him attractive.”