Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph has been in the NFL since 2018. He was a third-round pick by Pittsburgh and he has 13 starts in his career. In two of his seasons, he never saw the field. But his career arch is nothing like Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith.
But if you listened to CBS Sports NFL commentator Tony Romo this week when the Steelers were taking on the Buffalo Bills in a Wild Card playoff game and you did not know anything about Rudolph and Smith, you might think the two quarterbacks had a lot in common. That is because Romo said of Rudolph, "To me, (Rudolph) has developed. It's an archetype like Geno Smith in Seattle. He is for real..."
There is a reason, however, that Smith was drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft, immediately became a starter, washed out, and sat behind several very good quarterbacks before getting his chance to be a full-time starter again with the Seahawks in 2022. Smith was expected to be very good from the beginning of his career and later in his career was given a chance to prove himself.
Mason Rudolph does not equal Geno Smith
Rudolph was never expected to be anything other than a backup and a backup he remained until late in the 2023 season. While he did have a good run at the end of this season, he isn't expected to be the long-term starter in Pittsburgh. Plus, Rudolph was able to be efficiently good because Pittsburgh had a good defense and a great running game.
Geno Smith, in contrast, has been a starter for two years, has not had anything close to a good defense to help his offense out, and has had an inconsistent rushing attack to support him. Smith had to lead his team to most of the victories on his own with the help of DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Rudolph simply had to support the rest of his team by not turning the ball over.
Rudolph has also spent all of his career with the same team so if he doesn't know what head coach Mike Tomlin expects of him then Rudolph simply wouldn't have been listening for the last six years. Smith has bounced around the league while he has sat behind quarterbacks such as Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Russell Wilson. But once Smith got his chance to start again, he led the NFL in completion percentage and the NFC in touchdown passes, both in 2022. In 2023, Smith finished 12th in total QBR in the league.
Mason Rudolph is not the same as Geno Smith. He should consider himself lucky to be mentioned as following Smith's path. But in 2024, Geno Smith is going to be a starter again and Mason Rudolph is likely going to be a backup again.