Based on what people were saying about him afterward, you would have thought Mason Rudolph was one of those inside linebackers trying to cover tight ends in the Steelers 24-16 victory over the Eagles at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday evening.
It was the second preseason game for Pittsburgh, the second start for Rudolph and the second time in which he failed to lead the offense to a single score before exiting.
On the other hand, Dwayne Haskins was the featured act for the second straight week. And while featured acts usually go on before the headliners in the world of show business, in the case of Haskins, he was able to steal the spotlight yet again by completing 16 of 22 passes for 161 yards and a 22-yard touchdown strike to receiver Anthony Johnson, while helping lead the Steelers to a come-from-behind victory over the second Thursday in a row.
I thought Haskins did a good job of stepping up in the pocket before unleashing that touchdown pass. But I also thought Rudolph faced more consistent pressure behind a line made up of folks such as Joe Haeg, Kendrick Green and Chukwuma Okorafor.
To echo head coach Mike Tomlin’s post-game sentiments: Haskins did a good job reading through his progressions—in my opinion, he appeared to be better in that regard than Rudolph. To reiterate, however, Rudolph didn’t have the same kind of time to read through his progressions.
Haskins looked more poised and comfortable. But maybe that’s because he was afforded better protection behind a line that included guard Kevin Dotson and tackle Dan Moore, a rookie fourth-round pick who arrived in town with much less hype than Dotson did a year ago after being picked in the same round but who is starting to grow on more folks with each passing day.
As I watched the game, I kept trying to find ways to finally write off Rudolph, who completed eight of nine passes for 77 yards, but I just couldn’t honestly do that.
I think both quarterbacks improved from their play a week earlier. While Haskins posted a quarterback rating of 108.3—a huge step up from his 70.7 mark in the Hall of Fame Game—Rudolph’s rating of 102.3 was nearly six points higher than his very respectable 96.5 score in the preseason lid-lifter in Canton.
Rudolph faced the more dangerous Eagles’ defenders, but he also had better weapons to work with than did Haskins, who did his damage against future social media influencers. while playing with future Barstool podcasters.
You can argue about these two young quarterbacks until you’re blue in the face.
Who do I think deserves the job as the Steelers’ backup quarterback? I don’t think it’s a matter of deserving. I think it’s a matter of what plans Pittsburgh has for both. If you’re talking about someone who can perhaps fill the role of a backup quarterback better, I’d probably lean toward keeping Rudolph in that spot in 2021. Rudolph has been here for four years. While he might be learning the same new offensive system that Haskins is, he’s not learning a new culture, a new city, new teammates, etc. I would be more than comfortable with Rudolph stepping into a game or starting one and doing enough to win it. That’s really what a backup quarterback is meant to do in an ideal world.
Now, if you’re talking about someone who would have to step in for Roethlisberger following another long-term injury (Heaven forbid), I think Haskins could give the Steelers a better chance to win over the course of a season. As a former first-round pick, Haskins is clearly the more gifted of the two backup passers. He’s got more tools in his tool belt than Rudolph, if you will. Of the two, Haskins passes the eye test in terms of what most teams are looking for in a starting NFL quarterback.
So why shouldn’t Haskins be promoted to the backup quarterback spot? I don’t know. It’s still early, for one thing. For another thing, I’m just trying to be diplomatic.
It’s my way of saying that I like both of these guys. I’m super excited about Haskins and the potential for him to be the heir apparent, but I also think there’s still an opportunity for Rudolph to grow into a good-to-better NFL quarterback.
I think both Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins have handled themselves well through the first two preseason games.
Is there really much to argue about at this point?