Steelers backup quarterback: Who is QB2 for Wild Card game?

Mason Rudolph is the starter for Monday's rescheduled Steelers game against the Bills, but who backs him up?

Pittsburgh Steelers v Green Bay Packers
Pittsburgh Steelers v Green Bay Packers / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

Even well before kickoff, Monday's Wild Card game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills is anything but typical. Originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon but rescheduled due to dangerous weather and a travel ban in Western NY, both teams have had to adapt to changing circumstances.

It may not be actively snowing during the game, but it'll be cold (though not nearly as cold as the game between the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday). One of the shakiest circumstances does appear to be the Steelers quarterback, as they're starting Mason Rudolph, who spent most of the year as the team's backup quarterback. At times, he was the third string on the squad.

Here's the depth chart, as well as who is active on Monday if the team needs to pivot another direction away from Rudolph at any point during the game.

Steelers QB depth chart

This is the depth chart going into the game for the Steelers:

  1. Mason Rudolph
  2. Kenny Pickett
  3. Mitchell Trubisky

Again, Rudolph gets the nod as the starter. He started the final three games of the regular season for Pittsburgh.

Behind him is Kenny Pickett, who just recovered from an ankle injury that kept him out of Weeks 14 to 18. Rounding out the depth chart is Mitchell Trubisky, who was handed starting duties in Weeks 14 and 15 but lost that role to Rudolph.

Why isn't Kenny Pickett starting today in the Wild Card game vs the Bills?

Boy, what a loaded question. First, foremost, and most obviously, Pickett is still recovering from an ankle injury that nearly landed him on injured reserve when he suffered it in Week 13. He is active and has no injury designation, but there may be some trepidation to pull the trigger on listing him as the starter outright to protect his long-term health.

Digging a bit deeper, you have to look at the state of power in the QB section of the Steelers' depth chart. Primarily, yes, the Steelers are not starting Pickett for injury-related reasons, but it's not inconceivable to believe that there's a bit more confidence in Rudolph at this point over any other option the Steelers have under center.

That's not necessarily to say Rudolph is a better pound-for-pound signal caller than Pickett, but he has won the team's three games that he started to close the year. He's in a groove, and Pickett hasn't played since Dec. 3.

This, ultimately, has more to do with keeping what's been working on the field when the season's back is against the wall in a win-or-go-home game. It doesn't necessarily signal that Pickett would be out of the starting job if training camp were starting today, though Rudolph's ascension over the last three games earns him some bartering power.

Mason Rudolph contract, free agency status

Mason Rudolph's ascension as a starting quarterback that led his team to a playoff berth could not be more perfectly timed. Rudolph is a free agent this offseason, as he's currently in the final year of a four-year deal he signed with the Steelers in 2018.

Rudolph earned $1,080,000 this year.

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