3 reasons Mason Rudolph will never be a franchise QB for Steelers or elsewhere

      Author: Allison Koehler July 7, 2021 12:41 pm

This season is presumed to be the last of Ben Roethlisberger’s career — a daunting prospect considering Roethlisberger has been the lifeblood of the Steelers for the past 17 seasons, and there appears to be no plan for a long-term successor.

Internally, president Art Rooney II, general manager Kevin Colbert, and head coach Mike Tomlin cannot seriously look at Mason Rudolph as the heir to the quarterback throne.

Rudolph was served that opportunity on a silver platter in 2019. He had chances to prove he was worthy of being the legit next in line. But inconsistency — among other things — reared its ugly head.

Can Rudolph improve? Sure. With proper development and mindset, he could be a decent quarterback; he just doesn’t have the talent that Terry Bradshaw or Big Ben has.

In all fairness, Rudolph’s sample size is nine starts in 15 games, hardly enough to predict the future of a career. But in those games, he’s been far from convincing that he can carry the Steelers franchise for the next 10-plus seasons.

For 2022, however, it appears the job is Rudolph’s to lose. Not only is he the only quarterback under contract for the 2022 season (Roethlisberger’s future years are voidable), but anyone else brought in next offseason will lack the team experience to start immediately.

In June, Rudolph was quoted as saying that it’s his goal “to be a starting quarterback in this league, and for my team.”

It’s good to have goals, and while Rudolph may wind up starting for the Steelers in 2022, the future isn’t long-term.

Based on what Rudolph has shown thus far in his 15-game career, here’s why he’ll never be a franchise quarterback for the Steelers or anywhere else.

AP Photo/Don Wright

Rudolph’s career as an NFL starting quarterback was better than expected — seven touchdowns, three sacks, and two interceptions. Not too shabby for a second-year guy thrown into the fire.

Then came the brutal hit from Ravens’ Earl Thomas. After one week off, Rudolph’s consistency also took a hit. He threw five touchdowns to seven interceptions, fumbled thrice, and was sacked a whopping 11 times before being benched in favor of Devlin “Duck” Hodges.

A true franchise QB isn’t going to let an injury get the best of him. Many times, Roethlisberger took a licking and kept on ticking. The Steelers will need their quarterback of the future to battle back from injury, not shy away.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

A couple of parallels immediately stand out between Big Ben and Rudolph: Size and foot speed. The difference is, being mobile wasn’t quite as paramount in the NFL during most of Roethlisberger’s career as it is now. And even though Roethlisberger wasn’t graceful, he could scramble and extend plays due to sheer brute strength. Rudolph crumbles when the first option isn’t there. Quarterbacks need to be willing and able to take off at a moment’s notice or throw the ball away.

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Rudolph’s accuracy is wild. He’s yet to show the ability to throw with on-the-spot precision. Successful quarterbacks need to be able to place the ball where not only the receiver can catch it but also do something positive after the catch.

That leads us to arm strength which, for Rudolph, leaves a lot to be desired — perhaps one of the reasons why he fell to the third round of the 2018 NFL draft. Philip Rivers will tell you that arm strength isn’t needed to be a franchise QB, but defenses need to be threatened downfield, and I’m not feeling that with Rudolph.

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1 Comment

  1. Great article Allison! Definitely looking forward to reading more of your work!

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