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Re-signing Mason Rudolph is a solid move by the Steelers

Mason Rudolph is back, presumably as the Steelers third-string quarterback. They could do a lot worse.

Pittsburgh Steelers v New York Jets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Since we are in that dull period of the offseason between the NFL’s annual schedule reveal and sitting in traffic waiting for the sign person to change it to “slow,” it was so nice of the Steelers to give us something exciting to talk about.

That’s right, it was reported by several sources on Monday—starting with 93.7 The Fan’s Andrew Fillipponi—that Mason Rudolph would be returning for his sixth season with the Steelers in 2023.

Rudolph will presumably return to his 2022 role as Pittsburgh’s third-string quarterback behind starter Kenny Pickett and backup Mitch Trubisky.

Quarterbacks being quarterbacks, this news was met with many comments on social media; BTSC’s news article about Rudolph’s re-signing garnered 200-plus opinions as of Tuesday morning.

That’s a lot of opinions about the Steelers’ presumed third-string quarterback. Heck, that’s a lot of opinions about a backup quarterback, but this is what happens with that position.

There are always strong opinions associated with the quarterback. Rudolph was clearly no exception during his first five seasons with the Steelers, a period in which he went from being a third-round pick with promise, to the backup, to the starter, back to the backup role, to a third-stringer nobody wanted to see make the team in 2022, and finally to a free agent who everyone assumed would move on to greener pastures in 2023.

Rudolph didn’t move on to greener pastures. Was it because he didn’t receive any tangible interest from other teams to at least be their backup? Probably. Do I want to laugh about that? Not really. It’s hard to even reach the level that Rudolph has as a professional athlete, yet, despite his obvious desire to become a starter in the National Football League, perhaps he just doesn’t have that in him.

But that doesn’t mean he can’t have a nice and lengthy NFL career as a backup and/or third-string quarterback.

He already has, actually.

As the title outright says, I think this is a solid move by the Steelers. In my opinion, Rudolph was a pretty good backup behind Ben Roethlisberger. Now, as a third-string option behind Pickett and Trubisky? I can’t imagine any team doing better at the quarterback spot that low on the depth chart.

If you watched the progression of Roethlisberger’s career, he mostly spent the first five or six seasons as the youngest quarterback on the Steelers’ depth chart; meanwhile, the likes of Charlie Batch, Tommy Maddox and Byron Leftwich took turns serving as the second and third-string quarterbacks.

In other words, the Steelers had veteran options behind Roethlisberger early on.

But as Roethlisberger got older, and the calls for grooming his possible successor grew louder, the team switched up its philosophy a bit and started drafting the likes of Landry Jones, Josh Dobbs and Rudolph. You may have had a veteran sprinkled in every now and that—including Bruce Gradkowski and Mike Vick—but it was clear that Roethlisberger was more of a mentor later in his career (not that he was ever too crazy about such a role).

Finances also likely factored into this, of course. It’s much easier to have experienced veterans serving in backup roles when your starting quarterback is on his rookie deal. Once he cashes in on future contracts, however, a team might have to gamble a bit and have inexperienced passers round out the depth chart.

Pickett is clearly currently on his rookie deal, and Pittsburgh still has the luxury of having two experienced backups behind him.

Believe it or not, Rudolph is an experienced backup. If people are convinced that 17 career appearances—including 10 starts—are enough to pass judgment on Rudolph as an NFL starter, surely, they must concede that he now has the experience necessary to serve as a decent backup when called upon.

That’s all you can ask of any backup. And kudos to you if you can get that level of experience in a third-stringer.

Rudolph has a career record of 5-4-1 as a starter. He’s completed 61.5 percent of his passes. He’s thrown for 2,366 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has a passer rating of 80.9.

That’s quite good for a backup, let alone your No. 3 quarterback.

But Rudolph’s mere presence on the Steelers roster will continue to elicit strong emotions from the fans.

That’s good, however. As I’ve said before, when you’re a quarterback, fans will generally have strong feelings for you, one way or another.

There’s a fine line between love and hate when it comes to that position.

While the feelings about Rudolph have been negative for quite some time, Pickett is still in the honeymoon phase of his Steelers career.

It won’t take much for the feelings about Pickett to change, though. That’s just how it is.

There might be a time when Rudolph changes the narrative—and the feelings many have toward him—by coming into a game and saving the day. He might yet go on to have a successful career as a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Stranger things have happened, and I cannot wait to read his autobiography: The One You Were Looking For Was Right There The Whole Time.

In the meantime, Rudolph can continue to play the villain (for some reason). If I were him, I’d go all in with that. If I were in his shoes, I’d make more cryptic remarks about my relationship with Ben Roethlisberger. I’d create my own podcast called Mason’s Jar, and sample cheap, domestic beers and do so as if I was savoring 50-year-old wine.

Why not?

You’re Mason Rudolph. You’re good-looking. You’re still in your 20s.

And despite what social media might say about you, you’re still talented enough at your job to garner a seven-figure salary.

Life as a backup quarterback isn’t so bad. Being third-string also has its perks.

As it pertains to the Steelers and their third-string quarterback, they could do a lot worse than Mason Rudolph.