Even with Kenny Pickett rounding back to full health, the Pittsburgh Steelers will start Mason Rudolph for their crucial Week 18 regular-season finale against the Baltimore Ravens, head coach Mike Tomlin announced Monday.
“I think Kenny’s availability is less in question this week. I anticipate him being available to practice,” Tomlin told reporters. “That being said, we’re going to leave the ball in Mason Rudolph’s hands.”
Tomlin noted that the decision to go with Rudolph stems from the offense’s recent success with him under center.
“He’s done a good job and we’ve done a good job in the most recent two weeks. We’ve taken care of the ball. He’s taken care of the ball. We’ve scored points at a rate in which we hadn’t done to this point this year. With the urgency of the moment and because of those reasons, we’re going to leave the ball in his hands.”
The Steelers have scored 34 and 30 points, respectively, in their last two games – both of which Rudolph started. They marked the only contests this season in which Pittsburgh has scored 30-plus points.
The 9-7 Steelers are on the outside of the AFC’s wild-card race and need to beat the Ravens on Saturday to keep their hopes alive. However, they do not control their own destiny and will need help to sneak in.
Rudolph, who started the year as the team’s third-string quarterback behind Pickett and Mitch Trubisky, has risen to the occasion. Over his two starts, he’s thrown for 564 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.
He was given the opportunity to start after Trubisky was benched in Week 15. The second-stringer was in the lineup because Pickett suffered an ankle injury in Week 13.
Tomlin didn’t provide an answer on whether Rudolph would continue starting if the Steelers made the postseason.
“It depends on what happens this week, to be quite honest with you,” Tomlin said, according to ESPN’s Brooke Pryor. “At this point, hypotheticals and speculation is fruitless for us.”