Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has officially named Mason Rudolph the team’s starting quarterback for their wild-card game against the Buffalo Bills to open up what is hopefully a surprising postseason run.
However, in the depth chart the team released ahead of Week 18, Kenny Pickett is still listed as the starter, followed by Mason Rudolph at No. 2 and Mitch Trubisky at No. 3. When asked why that was the case in his Tuesday press conference, his response was short and to the point.
“Would it make you feel better if I did?” Tomlin prompted. “We’re going about our business cultivating a plan to win this week. We care less about the division of labor in terms of what’s on pieces of paper and depth charts and so forth and more strategically how we utilize the tools at our disposal in an effort to secure victory.”
“I’ve been transparent with you guys. [Rudolph]’s got the hot hand. He’s going to maintain control of the ball. I don’t know why that is an issue, to be quite honest with you,” Tomlin finished, matter-of-factly.
So. There it is. Mike Tomlin does not determine the division of labor based on meticulously kept depth charts the week before a playoff game. Anyway, why would he?
It doesn’t behoove Tomlin to adjust the depth chart, especially considering the way they’ve quietly handled Pickett’s benching. Making an official move to the depth chart? That would probably create more of a spectacle than it needs to be. Even Steelers fans living their best(-ish) lives watching Rudolph execute the offense with rhythm and confidence in a way that we haven’t seen from Pickett consistently this season have to admit that Rudolph isn’t actually the Steelers’ guy — not long-term, anyway.
What Rudolph may have done is play himself into a suitable contract and opportunity to start elsewhere in the league. He’s proven his ability to step up when called upon and not fumble the bag, which is precisely what many teams hope for out of their backup quarterback. He’s not likely the future of this team, however.
Pickett will likely be given every opportunity to prove his worthiness of the first-round pick they spent on him. He’ll be given the opportunity to work with a new offensive coordinator and plenty of time to adjust what will likely (hopefully) be an entirely new scheme and playbook. For those reasons, moving Rudolph ahead of Pickett on the depth chart would just seem disingenuous. Steelers Nation knows that the Cinderella story will eventually come to an end (even if the hope is that it ends with a Lombardi in hand), Rudolph will turn back into a pumpkin — albeit a pumpkin with fuller pockets — and Pickett will resume his place atop the mountain — nay... atop the Mount Washington.
That’s not to say Rudolph’s efforts haven’t gone unappreciated, mind you. It’s just the Steelers way.