Steelers' Diontae Johnson Wants Mason Rudolph over Trubisky If Kenny Pickett Is Out

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVDecember 15, 2022

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 04: Diontae Johnson #18 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during warmups before the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 04, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Diontae Johnson wants to see Mason Rudolph get a chance to be the starting quarterback if rookie Kenny Pickett is unable to play on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers

"Yeah, I want to see him play," Johnson told reporters. "I know he's ready to play. I know it's probably in the back of his mind like, 'Dang, when I'm going get my chance?' I feel like this week is it for him. I know he's going to do everything it takes to be prepared this week, get ready for Sunday."

Pickett's status is up in the air after being put in the concussion protocol last week for the second time this season.

Mitchell Trubisky started the season as Pittsburgh's starter and has served as Pickett's backup since the rookie was elevated to the starting role. But Johnson clearly wants to see Rudolph—who has been inactive every week this season—get his shot, although he indicated he'll adjust to whoever it is playing.

"Whoever's at quarterback, they have got to be prepared as well," he told reporters. "They've got to be on their stuff just like me. I'll make sure I talk to [Pickett] to see if he's cool or whatnot. But no matter who it is, I'm going to be ready. Don't matter who's throwing the balls, as long as you're making the play on the ball at the end of the day."

Rudolph, 27, started all of two games for the Steelers in the 2020-21 seasons as Ben Roethlisberger's backup after being given an extended look in 2019. He offered mixed results that year, throwing for 1,765 yards, 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions in eight starts (10 total appearances), completing 62.2 percent of his passes while taking 15 sacks. The Steelers went 5-3 in those starts.

The Steelers as a team have had mixed results this season, going just 5-8. Trubisky was just 1-3 as the starter before losing the position, while Pickett has led the team to a 4-5 mark.

Neither has played particularly well, though Pickett has the caveat of being a rookie.

Trubisky has thrown for 1,073 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions while completing 63.3 percent of his passes and taking 10 sacks. Pickett has gone for 1,797 yards, four scores and eight picks while completing 65 percent of his passes and taking 23 sacks.

As for Johnson's preference for Rudolph over Trubisky, that may partially stem from an October dust-up between the two men during a game against the New York Jets, when Johnson reportedly told the quarterback at halftime that he wanted more targets.

Johnson said in October that the situation was resolved, and added Thursday that he believes Rudolph has proven in practice that he's earned a chance to play again if Pickett can't go.

"He's been doing a great job just staying solid through everything and continuing to get better every day," he said. "You see at practice, he's locked in, he's making those throws, continuously showing that he knows what he's doing, making the right throws here and there, getting everybody lined up right. I like that."