Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin announced on Monday that backup quarterback Mason Rudolph will start in the regular-season finale against the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday in a rather shocking decision.
Despite Kenny Pickett being physically available after a four-game absence due to an ankle injury and the franchise quarterback having already earned Pitt a win against the Ravens, Tomlin is seemingly fading Pickett in favor of the mediocre Rudolph, per Ian Rapoport.
Tomlin explained his decision to the media in his presser, citing the recent surge of the Steelers under Rudolph. "We’re going to leave the ball in Mason Rudolph’s hands," Tomlin said.
Rudolph has led Pittsburgh to back-to-back wins in the last two weeks as well as an average of 32 points per game in those victories against the Bengals and Seahawks.
The last time these two met each other in Week 5, Kenny Pickett threw the go-ahead touchdown pass to George Pickens in the final quarter that ultimately won Pittsburgh the game.
Tomlin left the possibility of introducing Pickett midway through Week 18's matchup in the air, but unless that happens Pickett won't be the man getting the W for the Steelers.
While the Ravens will be playing for nothing having already clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC, this matchup means everything for Pittsburgh. With a record of 9-7, the Steelers must secure a win against the Ravens to keep their playoff hopes alive and then pray for other games to go their way to get into the playoffs.
Per the Steelers’ website, Pittsburgh can get a postseason berth with a win at Baltimore coupled with a win by Miami over Buffalo, or a win by Tennessee over Jacksonville among some other lower-probability scenarios.
The Ravens can (and probably will) make some changes and flip some of the starters for reserves in their lineup, although head coach John Harbaugh said on Monday that he has not yet made a final decision. It's the classic rest-vs-rust conundrum, and it must be threaded carefully.
Harbaugh didn't name a starting quarterback for Saturday in his usual Monday presser, saying, "We’ve got to work through the injury part of it first," adding that the Ravens still need "24 to 48 hours" to see where things stand and make the final call later this week.