The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t won a playoff game since the 2016-17 NFL season, an unusually long stretch for a franchise tied for the most Super Bowl titles in NFL history with six. And the man head coach Mike Tomlin is turning to with hopes to break the streak is 28-year-old quarterback Mason Rudolph.
Rudolph was on the Steelers in 2020 and 2021 but did not play in either of Pittsburgh’s wild-card losses those years. So Sunday’s wild-card playoff matchup in Buffalo (1 p.m. ET) will be his first taste of NFL postseason football. Yet if anyone can orchestrate an upset over the AFC East-champion Bills (11-6), Tomlin believes it’s Rudolph.
On Dec. 16, the Steelers’ playoff chances looked slim. They were 7-7 after a blowout loss to the Indianapolis Colts, starting quarterback Kenny Pickett had an injured ankle, and the team had just benched backup QB Mitch Trubisky that day in favor of third-stringer Rudolph.
Thanks in part to Rudolph’s steady play (719 yards, three TDs, zero picks and a 74.3 completion percentage) since his insertion in the lineup, the Steelers rattled off a win at home against the Cincinnati Bengals and then road wins over the Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens to snag the AFC’s final wild-card spot.
Mason Rudolph started 3 games this season
Yet he had the SAME amount of starts with a 110+ Pass Rating (3) as Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert. pic.twitter.com/8rQIs9p4Ub
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) January 8, 2024
Pittsburgh’s win against Cincinnati was Rudolph’s first start since November 2021. Following the game, Rudolph praised God.
“Just so thankful to my Creator, Jesus Christ, for giving me the opportunity to play this game and for carrying me through the dark times and getting me back here for this special moment,” he said.
“Just so thankful to my creator Jesus Christ for giving me the opportunity to play this game and carry me through the dark times”
— Sports Spectrum (@Sports_Spectrum) December 24, 2023
Rudolph’s performance on the field has certainly proved to be a shot in the arm for Pittsburgh. Pickett is now healthy, yet Rudolph is the choice against Buffalo.
“At the quarterback position, we’ll stay with Mason Rudolph,” Tomlin said at his press conference on Tuesday, according to SteelersDepot.com. “Much like in the spirit in which we worked a week ago, we’re just simply staying with the hot hand and not disrupting the apple cart.”
Rudolph has been with the Steelers since Pittsburgh selected him in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft and has extensive experience as a backup. Perhaps most notably, he filled in for an injured Ben Roethlisberger in 2019 and posted a 5-3 record as a starter.
The postseason, however, is another animal. Ahead of his first playoff action in his six-year professional career, Rudolph will seek to lean on his Christian upbringing and trust God with all that’s before him.
“I couldn’t have had a better situation from a Christian-based perspective with two rock-solid parents,” Rudolph said of his formative years in Rock Hill, South Carolina, on an episode of the “Table Forty” podcast in May 2021. “My mother was raised a Christian, my dad gave his life to Christ in high school.”
He also spoke of a trip to Jerusalem and the Sea of Galilee with his grandfather, who was a pastor in Northern Virginia and often took members of his church to the Holy Land. Seeing the sites where Jesus ministered left an impression on Rudolph.
“What a great, unforgettable trip that I was able to share with my grandparents,” he said on the podcast.
Then the LORD answered and said, "Record the vision And inscribe it on tablets, That the one who reads it may run." Habakkuk 2:2 #letsrun
— Mason Rudolph (@Rudolph2Mason) July 25, 2017
“I passionately pursue Christ because I want to be a witness for Him and use this platform to impact our community,” he told FCA Magazine for a cover story in 2017. “… It’s Christ who will always be there for you; He’s your foundation. So just getting in the Word and leaning on a few of my life verses throughout the week, as well as constant communication with my parents and grandparents — that’s my secret to success.”
– TABLE FORTY PODCAST: Pittsburgh Steelers QB Mason Rudolph
– Mason Rudolph trusting in God as he prepares for NFL draft
– Oklahoma St. QB Mason Rudolph says he wants to be a witness for Christ
– SS PODCAST: Steelers chaplain Kent Chevalier on deflecting glory, prayer
– Steelers coach Mike Tomlin knows he has ‘bigger calling’ than coaching