Tim Benz: Steelers’ Mike Tomlin makes right call on quarterbacks, despite odd logic
What Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin decided to do with his quarterback situation was the right move.
I’m just not so sure about the logic he used to get there.
Or why he is as secure in the decision as he appears to be.
On Wednesday, Tomlin was asked if Mason Rudolph would be the starting quarterback when he recovered from his concussion.
“Yes,” Tomlin said flatly. “If that makes you guys feel good.”
Well, gosh, Mike. I felt good anyway. But thanks for making such an important decision on my account.
“Seriously, guys. That guy is our quarterback when he clears the (concussion) protocol. And it’s as simple as that,” Tomlin said. “We appreciate the efforts of Duck. But as soon as (Rudolph) is ready to go, he’s ready to go.”
So it appears Hodges was strictly bridging the gap until Rudolph got healthy and wasn’t auditioning for anything further, regardless of how well he may have played.
For the record, that was going 22 for 29 for 200 yards with one touchdown and one interception over roughly six quarters.
Rudolph was 26 for 48 for 286 yards with four TDs and two interceptions over his first six quarters.
So the numbers seem closer than the decision-making process apparently was. Because Tomlin certainly made the call to bench Hodges and go back to Rudolph sound like a no-brainer.
Frankly, it should’ve been.
The Steelers invested a third-round pick in Rudolph. They claim to have had a first-round grade on him. He’s a 6-foot-5, high-pedigree passer from a Power 5 conference.
Hodges is a 6-foot-1, undrafted quarterback from an FCS school.
None of that means Hodges won’t eventually prove to be better than Rudolph. Maybe he is already.
But Rudolph needs to prove he’s worse than his public perception, before Hodges gets to prove he’s better than his.
In a best-case scenario, their hunch proves right and over the next 11 games, Rudolph shows the chops to be Ben Roethlisberger’s successor.
In a more conservative scenario, you may find out if you have a solid backup to Big Ben for his remaining years. Or, an intriguing trade chip.
In a worst-case scenario, he bombs and you put “the Duck” back on the pond in a few weeks.
That would be disappointing. And you’d have to admit you blew it on a third-round-pick quarterback. But at least you gave it a legitimate shot to find out.
Instead of scrapping Rudolph in favor of a guy you thought so little of, you cut him to keep Josh Dobbs just a few weeks ago.
That has to be the thinking from Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert. It should be, anyway. And I agree with it whole-heartedly.
What I didn’t understand was Tomlin’s dismissive tone of Hodges’ play, and his attempts to minimize Hodges’ contributions toward the win in Los Angeles on Sunday.
“He didn’t kill us,” Tomlin said.
“He made the plays he needed to make. But we were thoughtful of the position we put him in. … We did the things that we needed to do to secure victory in that instance.”
Right. And what did you do with Rudolph? Have him wing the ball around the field? What games did I watch against the San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens?
For crying out loud, Coach. You were insulating Rudolph so much, you were running the wildcat with the QB split wide. You were trying to have him jet-sweep and shovel pass his way to victory.
Was it really all that different? It seems to me you were pretty “thoughtful of what positions” Rudolph was placed in as well.
Again, I’m not concerned about Tomlin’s decision about his quarterbacks. I endorse it.
What concerns me is Tomlin seems to be under the impression he and offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner were somehow being wide-open with Rudolph’s gameplan as opposed to the one for Hodges.
That’s anything but the truth.
And it doesn’t make me feel good. Even if Rudolph starting next Monday night does.