Steelers QB Mason Rudolph faced with questions about next season


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Mason Rudolph seemed almost as pained by finding the appropriate words to answer the question as he did by the result of Monday’s season-ending playoff loss.

Still smarting after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 31-17 defeat to the Buffalo Bills in the wild-card game that ended less than an hour prior, Rudolph was asked if he would be willing to return to the Steelers next season.

Rudolph, who played this past season on a one-year contract for the veteran minimum salary, started at quarterback for the final four games of the season (including playoffs). He is due to hit unrestricted free agency in March.

“I love the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Rudolph said. “They have been my only home for six years. We will see what happens. It’s not really my decision, it’s not really in my control. We will see what happens.”

Rudolph had 229 passing yards while completing 22 of 39 throws with two touchdowns and one costly interception in his NFL playoff debut. Statistically, it was the worst of his four games he played this season. The other three were victories down the stretch of the regular season while guiding the Steelers through a must-win spate just to qualify for the postseason.

Since re-signing in May, Rudolph spent all of spring workouts, training camp and the regular season as the Steelers’ third-string quarterback until starter Kenny Pickett suffered an ankle injury in early December and No. 2 Mitch Trubisky was ineffective in 212 games as the Steelers’ season spiraled with a three-game losing streak.


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But when coach Mike Tomlin turned to Rudolph, the Steelers’ fortunes — and their offense — turned around for the better.

“I think when I go back and look at the totality of the tape, I will get a better feel for it,” Rudolph said when asked to evaluate his play over the past month. “But I think right now, obviously the plan was to come here and get a win, and we fell short. Fell short to a great team. But I think I can say I was proud of what we as an offense put on tape these last few weeks and the way we celebrated, the way guys cheered for each other — whether the run game was working, whether the receivers were rolling, it was just that we had chemistry and we had belief and love for one another.”

Rudolph posted a 118.0 passer rating after he took over the Steelers offense, a figure better than Pickett has ever posted in any of his 25 career NFL games. Rudolph twice in four games had a pair of touchdown passes, something Pickett has only done once in his career.

“I thought he was solid,” Tomlin said of Rudolph’s play Monday, “thought he was competitive, thought his confidence was unshakeable. He displayed the things he displayed for the last month or so.”

But did Rudolph display enough for the Steelers to give him a legitimate opportunity to start for them in 2024? After all, they invested a first-round pick in Pickett 20 months ago. A decision on Pickett’s fifth-year contract option is due in May 2025, meaning it would be ideal for the Steelers to get a thorough evaluation of him by then.

Rudolph perhaps put enough good things on his film for another team to offer him a significant opportunity next season.

Most of that, though, will play out over the next two months. Monday, the end of the season was all too fresh.

“I have no idea what’s going to happen,” Rudolph said. “None of us in (the locker room) know what’s going to happen tomorrow, much less next year.

“I am still thinking about the game and the loss, and it hurts and it stings. We know we could have done better today. the turnovers early — myself included — didn’t really give us the ability to put our best foot forward. That is what is on the forefront of the mind right now.”

Chris Adamski is a TribLive reporter who has covered primarily the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2014 following two seasons on the Penn State football beat. A Western Pennsylvania native, he joined the Trib in 2012 after spending a decade covering Pittsburgh sports for other outlets. He can be reached at cadamski@triblive.com.



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