PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers, losers of three straight games, are turning to quarterback Mason Rudolph.

Though coach Mike Tomlin stopped short of definitively naming Rudolph the starter for Saturday's pivotal division game against the Cincinnati Bengals, he said Rudolph "is the guy with the ball."

"It's our intention as we sit here today to give Mason Rudolph an opportunity to start," Tomlin said in his weekly news conference. "He's a veteran guy. He's a backup but he's also a veteran guy. He's been in our program a long time. He's here for those reasons. We got a great deal of comfort with him."

Tomlin also added he's not ruling out quarterback Kenny Pickett, who had "TightRope" surgery for a high ankle sprain on Dec. 4, for Saturday's game.

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"He had a really good rehab today," Tomlin said of Pickett. "His availability is not out of question this week, but at the front part of the week our attention and emphasis will be on Mason Rudolph, and we'll leave the door ajar and see how Kenny responds to the work that he did today and the limited work that we're probably going to give him tomorrow."

Just a week earlier, Tomlin deflected the idea of Rudolph getting an opportunity to start, saying the environment wasn't appropriate to "open up competition" for the starting quarterback job because Rudolph "hadn't had a lot of exposure in terms of in-helmet prep."

But Tomlin changed his tune Monday after Mitch Trubisky threw two interceptions and the offense put up a season-low 216 yards in the 30-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Trubisky, who was signed to an extension in the offseason, was benched for Rudolph after throwing his second interception with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Rudolph played six snaps of garbage time, completing 2 of 3 attempts for 3 yards.

"Not dumping the outcome of the game at Mitch's feet," Tomlin said. "I'm not saying that, but I am saying the guy [at] that position is at the controls and does have a big say in how some things unfold. It's more about really Mason Rudolph being deserving of an opportunity and us trying to change the trajectory of what's been transpiring."

What's been transpiring is the Steelers' playoff chances evaporating with three consecutive losses. In those losses, the Steelers are averaging 13.7 points per game. Since firing offensive coordinator Matt Canada following the 13-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 11, the Steelers have scored more than 16 points just once -- 18 in the loss to the New England Patriots in Week 14.

In two games with Trubisky starting in place of Pickett, the Steelers are averaging 240 yards of offense, a decline from their season average of 287.1, which ranks 27th in the NFL. Trubisky has thrown three interceptions to two touchdowns in his starts this season and has a QBR of 33.4, second worst of his career behind 33.3 in his rookie season with the Chicago Bears. By comparison, Pickett's QBR is 38.2, ranking 25th among 29 qualified quarterbacks.

"Why are we making the change, man? We don't like what we're looking at and the consistency of it," Tomlin said in explaining the decision. "What I mean is we're not scoring enough points. Particularly as you move into December football, man, you got to score more than 12, 14, 16 points in games this time of year. You better assume that others are doing the same.

"The engineering of victory is not going to be fluid if you're not doing those things, and obviously by nature of the position, the guy that has the ball, quarterback position, that's a catalyst for change and opportunity. And so, we want to give [Rudolph] some snaps from a preparation standpoint, some in-helmet perspective.

Rudolph, who didn't see any game action in 2022, got his last start in a tie against the Detroit Lions in Week 10 of the 2021 season when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was placed on the COVID-19 list the night before the game.

Rudolph completed 30 of 50 attempts for 242 yards and had one touchdown and one interception. He also attempted eight passes in garbage time to conclude the 36-10 Week 16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs that season.

Rudolph got the bulk of his experience in 2019 following Roethlisberger's season-ending elbow injury. Splitting time with fellow backup Devlin "Duck" Hodges, Rudolph started eight games that season and completed 62.2% of his attempts for 1,765 yards, 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

"Rudolph, he's been a part of our program," Tomlin said. "He knows us, we know him. He's tough-minded. He's got a lot of confidence in himself. He's a competitor. Those are some of the things that are really attractive about giving him an opportunity this week."

Since the Steelers signed Trubisky during free agency in 2022, Rudolph has only been active for three games. Yet, Tomlin expressed confidence in the quarterback, whom the Steelers selected in the third round of the 2018 draft.

"He's just good under tough circumstances, man," Tomlin said. "He is a competitor. He believes in himself. He's a calculated risk-taker. I believe that that mentality is helpful to us under these circumstances."