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Steelers to start Mason Rudolph over Kenny Pickett in Week 18

Mason Rudolph #2 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up a pass prior to a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Acrisure Stadium on December 23, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are on a two-game winning streak with quarterback Mason Rudolph under center as starter Kenny Pickett has rehabbed an ankle injury. Now, Rudolph’s success has forced some challenging questions for Mike Tomlin and the rest of the coaching staff as they evaluate their future at the position.

For the time being, it seems, it’s Mason Rudolph’s job to lose, as Tomlin announced Monday that they intend to start him over Pickett in a must-win game on the road against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 18.

Pickett does seem to be healthy at this point and will continue to earn reps in practice throughout the week leading up to Saturday's kickoff. It seems likely, as Tomlin noted Pickett’s “availability will be less in question” this week, that he’ll be slated as the backup quarterback, rather than Mitch Trubisky. Tomlin noted that Pickett had been medically cleared to return ahead of Sunday’s game against the Seahawks, but a lack of quality reps in practice throughout the week yielded him an “inactive” status in Week 17.

With Rudolph under center, there’s no doubt that the offense has had a certain element of fluidity that they haven’t seen to this point in the 2023 season. Rudolph is averaging 10.5 yards per attempt, having thrown for 567 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Statistically, Rudolph has outmatched Pickett across the board, in terms of completion percentage, yards per attempt, NFL passer rating — you name it. Now, he’ll officially have the opportunity to continue that hot streak against the Ravens, who have locked up the No. 1 seed and will likely rest a number of their top starters, to keep their season alive.