It's hard to say what has people more up in arms, as the Steelers continue with their third phase of OTAs at the team’s South Side facilities: The absence of defensive end Stephen Tuitt or the presence of quarterback Mason Rudolph.
I’d say it’s Tuitt’s absence, but it’s close.
Rudolph began this phase of OTAs—the most important phase of football in shorts this side of mandatory minicamp—as the number two quarterback on the depth chart behind veteran Mitch Trubisky.
I laughed when I heard about this, but not because I thought it was a joke that Rudolph was that high on this supposed depth chart. No, I laughed because I knew there would be fans who would take offense to this.
They have. Actually, many fans, people who have this almost unhealthy hatred for the man, seem to be offended that Rudolph showed up at all. OK, maybe they like the fact that Rudolph is at these voluntary workouts—no-showing is often a bone of contention for people who never watched the Seinfeld episode where Elaine’s boss made her feel guilty about not attending his family get-together off the clock—but why is he doing stuff?
Why is Rudolph doing things at OTAs like passing the football to players? Doesn’t he know he has zero chance of winning the starting quarterback spot once head coach Mike Tomlin finally gives up this charade and buys his fifth-year quarterback a one-way ticket to Getouttatown?
Rudolph even had the nerve to say (out loud, mind you) that he still thinks he has a chance to win the starting job.
Anyway, in all seriousness, I like the confidence. I like the fire. I like the fact that Rudolph hasn’t shown any visible signs of frustration.
There haven’t been any rumors about Rudolph wanting to be traded or released (even if the fans want him traded or released).
You want that kind of spirit in a quarterback, right?
As nice of a guy as Trubisky is, and as exciting of a story as the drafting of Kenny Pickett was, finding a great starting quarterback is the Steelers' most important task from this moment on.
Are the odds stacked against Rudolph based on the drafting of Pickett and the free-agent acquisition of Trubisky before that? Sure. Did the Steelers do those two things mostly because they didn’t have an adequate level of confidence that Rudolph could be the new face of their franchise moving forward? Yes, that’s a very safe bet.
But let’s not be too quick to rid ourselves of Rudolph.
What if he’s really good once he finally gets a legit shot? You talk about an awkward situation. Just think about how guilty you will feel 30 years from now when you’re reading Rudolph’s biography: A Helmet Can’t Protect You From All The Pain. What if you’re the jer, I mean, the person on social media who’s always posting that picture of Rudolph with his head dented in? He was smacked in the head with a helmet. Get it?
I mean, you hear stories of the ugly things said about Terry Bradshaw during his day. I personally witnessed and heard some very nasty things said to and about Kordell Stewart. But it just makes it more unsettling to see this kind of nonstop nonsense about a current quarterback on social media and beyond.
Buckle up, kids, because if Trubisky and Pickett don't work out, not only will you likely be just as cruel to them (believe me, you will), but it will be the same way with every passer that comes through town until someone finally pops.
Therefore, you should be pulling for Rudolph just as hard as you are for the other two. The sooner the Steelers find their next franchise guy, the better it's going to be.
Finally, Steelers fans may not think they need Mason Rudolph, but one never knows.
And that, more than any other reason, is why I’m glad he's still motivated and working hard to become the next starting quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers.