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Is Rudolph or Haskins The Next Man Up? 10,000 Simulations Later and This Is What I Learned

Steeler Nation

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With Ben Roethlisberger’s future continuing to be up in the air, it is fair that many are looking at the other quarterbacks on the roster, those entering free agency, to trade situations, and even to the collegiate ranks in the chance that the Pittsburgh Steelers trade up to snag the quarterback of the future.

That said, as it currently stands, the Steelers will have Dwayne Haskins and Mason Rudolph on the quarterback depth chart if Roethlisberger were to announce his departure.

Steelers faithful generally knows what to expect with Rudolph under center. Haskins is a bigger question mark.

Regardless, entertaining the thought of how each would hypothetically do as a season-long starter for the Steelers could be an interesting exercise.

Thankfully, because of the incredible work of Lee Sharpe (@LeeSharpeNFL) and Sebastian Carl (@mrcaseb), we advanced analytics lovers now have access to nflseedR and the power to explore such hypothetical situations.

In short, nflseedR is a package based in the R-programming language that allows those interested to run thousands – or tens-of-thousands – of simulations across various NFL seasons. Moreover, it allows for the development of unique models for input into the simulation.

In this case, I wanted to explore how a 2020 Steelers’ season would end up with both Rudolph and Haskins under center instead of Roethlisberger.

To do so, you first have to determine how to calculate Roethlisberger’s impact on the team versus the other two. For this simulation, I opted to go with 538’s quarterback-adjusted ELO score. The metric is designed to “account for changes in performance – and personnel – at quarterback, the game’s most important position.”

However, inputting the season-beginning ELO metric for each quarterback is just one piece of the puzzle. In this case, we also want the data to update through each week of the simulation. Using a model pre-developed by the creators of nflseedR, we are able to pass the dynamically-changed ELO metric from week to week to allow for an even more definitive final result.

With that sorted, the process is as simple as swapping out Roethlisberger’s ELO metric for both Rudolph’s and Haskins’.

After that, nflseedR does all the heavy lifting (and heavy math) to determine game outcomes based on ELO, with a quarterback’s ELO evolving and changing throughout the simulation.

Before diving into hypothetical scenarios, let’s establish a baseline by simulating the 2020 NFL season 10,000 times with Roethlisberger as the quarterback.

Ben Roethlisberger: 10,000 Simulations​



Over 10,000 simulations of the 2020 NFL season, the Steelers – with Roethlisberger as the starting quarterback – averaged roughly 9 wins per season. While that is three-games less than the 12 victories this past season, I believe it is a rather accurate depiction as there were certainly a few games that Pittsburgh was extremely lucky to win.

Moreover, with Roethlisberger as the quarterback, the Steelers made the playoffs in 61% of the simulations, won the AFC North in just under 30% of the simulations, and won the conference and Super Bowl 9% and 4% of the time, respectively.

The simulation results for Roethlisberger seem in line with what should be expected. Personally, I am a bit surprised at the low AFC North winner percentage but, once you take Lamar Jackson’s ELO score into consideration, it does make sense that the Baltimore Ravens were the beneficiary of the model’s inner workings.

Next, let’s move onto 10,000 simulations with Haskins as the quarterback.

Dwayne Haskins: 10,000 Simulations​


If you are a Steelers fan, the results are not optimal after 10,000 simulations with Haskins as the starting quarterback.



After the 10,000 simulations, the Steelers averaged just 6.2 wins. They made the playoffs in just 19% of the sims, managed to win the division in just 600 of the simulations, and basically never secured a first-round bye, a conference championship, or Super Bowl victory.

It is not depicted in the above chart, but the Steelers received the top draft pick in the NFL Draft 8% of the time and received a top-five pick nearly 40% of the time.

The Haskins-led Steelers went 0-16 in 46 of the 10,000 simulations but, on the other hand, did go 16-0 twice (which is a 0.0002% chance, if you are doing the math yourself).

The biggest shock to me with Haskins under center is not the three-game drop in total wins, but the 42% drop in the amount of time the Steelers made the playoffs. With Roethlisberger as the quarterback, the simulation felt Pittsburgh – while not a virtual playoff lock – was an incredibly strong contender to make the playoffs each and every run through the season. With Haskins, the Steelers plummeted to the worst odds in the AFC North at making the playoffs.

Mason Rudolph: 10,000 Simulations​




The numbers are no better – worse, in fact – with Rudolph under center. Compared to Haskins starting as the quarterback, the Steelers averaged one less win per season in the 10,000 simulations. As well, there is very little chance (just 11% of the simulations) of the Steelers making the playoffs. The odds of getting a first-round bye, winning the conference championship, or the Super Bowl are about as close to zero as you can get.

While it is again not depicted in the chart, with Rudolph as the starting quarterback, the Steelers received the first-overall draft pick in roughly 15% of the simulations and got a top-five selection in just a hair under 50% of the simulations.

Final Thoughts: 10,000 Simulations​


Given the results of the simulation, the best choice – obviously – is for Roethlisberger to return.

But that was not the point of running through these scenarios 10,000 times. The point was to determine if either Haskins or Rudolph could seriously be considered the “next man up” if Roethlisberger were to ride off into the sunset in the comings weeks or months.

Given that Haskins and Rudolph, over the course of 10,000 simulations, rarely led the Steelers to the playoffs, I believe the answer is a pretty solid no. Neither Haskins nor Rudolph, based on the simulations, should be considered the quarterback of the future. They are both stopgaps, at best, until the front office determines the future of the quarterback position in Pittsburgh.

But I think we all knew that to begin with.

What I do think is the most interesting part of the simulations is that Haskins provides marginally better chances of the Steelers making the playoffs, winning the division, etc. if he were to be the stopgap starter versus Rudolph.

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steel dino

Eastbound and down....
If no Ben this year....and no 1st round QB selection ....
and if we ride with Mason or Haskins in 2021....the question is which QB will more likely be able to get us a top ten pick in 2022 and maybe get our franchise QB?
 

SteelBuckeye

Well-known member
An interesting hypothesis. The thing about those models though is that they view each of the QBs as a stagnant variable (What you've received before is what you'll receive now). That means it doesn't take into account Ben either playing better because he's had a year and half for his ligaments to mend or falling off the proverbial cliff. It doesn't take into account that Rudolph and Haskins are both relatively young and could grow as QBs (or fall off the proverbial cliff).
I know that there is no statistical model that can account for these occurrences when trying to predict what WILL happen. I'm just saying that they are better if viewed as what MAY happen. Because the unknown variables are out there and they will have a say in the final outcome.
 

topseed

Well-known member
Rudolph is 5-4 as a starter and has a career QB rating of 82.7.
Haskins is 3-10 as a starter and has a career QB rating of 74.4.

Rudolph isn't very good, and Haskins stinks. While I think it's amusing that they somehow find Haskins to be the better player, I don't need 10,000 simulations to tell me that the Steelers are fucked with either of these guys playing quarterback.
 

stuntmanmike

Well-known member
Tell you right now, Connor at rb, Haskins at qb, running very simple RPO offense with wide-zone zone blocking scheme, like shanahan runs with the 9ers, the golden domer at flanker, johnson at wr, Washington at split end and you “actually” ran Haskins up to 7-10 a game, youd have a better offense than what we had last year. Haskins has strong arm and is very accurate. But he’s not going to stand back their and run a “west coast offense” Without a few years hard work learning it and lots of bench sitting. Neither I doubt he’s into. Seattle has the one of best offenses because it‘s unpredictable wilson just keeps moving the chains. if you expecting to throw the ball 55 times for 170 yards and expect to win you are stupid. Defenses are just too fast, fuk, just look at ours. you Have to run the qb enough that he’s a threat and then it’s all down hill. if you can’t sell the threat of the qb running RPO offenses are a joke... like the offense we put out there. The weakness of our offense was really exposed in ‘19 . The fact took it took about 10 games into 20 before teams really woke up shows you how shitty the coaching in NFL is. Press our wrs, with our phony running game, then the 2yrd passing scheme falls apart, game over. With Ben coming back expect same result for ‘22. The games changed and as usual Steelers haven’t.
 

Drink IRON City

Well-known member
Brad, thanks for all your work within the article.

I like the analytical analysis due in part I like numbers. One can only take these for what value you think they are worth unless there is a BIG discrepancy in what you are specifically looking for. I think Mason Rudolf would have a better season than Haskins regardless of the outcome of this analytical excercise. Just my gut feeling on this.



Salute the nation
 

madinsomniac

Well-known member
Haskins wont make it out of training camp. Just a feeling... he talked a good game after getting signed here, but I don’t think that he will put in the work once he sees Ben is coming back...
 

Shane Falco

Well-known member
When Rudolph started getting into a groove/rhythm in the Cleveland game last year, he was making some really spot on throws. His deep ball accuracy is something to consider. Not saying Rudolph is the answer, but could be the stop gap, the Mike Tomzack. He would do well under the Canada offense. His progression and understanding of pro defenses is better than Haskins.
 

topseed

Well-known member
Tell you right now, Connor at rb, Haskins at qb, running very simple RPO offense with wide-zone zone blocking scheme, like shanahan runs with the 9ers, the golden domer at flanker, johnson at wr, Washington at split end and you “actually” ran Haskins up to 7-10 a game, youd have a better offense than what we had last year. Haskins has strong arm and is very accurate. But he’s not going to stand back their and run a “west coast offense” Without a few years hard work learning it and lots of bench sitting. Neither I doubt he’s into. Seattle has the one of best offenses because it‘s unpredictable wilson just keeps moving the chains. if you expecting to throw the ball 55 times for 170 yards and expect to win you are stupid. Defenses are just too fast, fuk, just look at ours. you Have to run the qb enough that he’s a threat and then it’s all down hill. if you can’t sell the threat of the qb running RPO offenses are a joke... like the offense we put out there. The weakness of our offense was really exposed in ‘19 . The fact took it took about 10 games into 20 before teams really woke up shows you how shitty the coaching in NFL is. Press our wrs, with our phony running game, then the 2yrd passing scheme falls apart, game over. With Ben coming back expect same result for ‘22. The games changed and as usual Steelers haven’t.
Problem with your approach there is: Haskins isn't a good fit for an RPO, because he's not very mobile at all. And he's certainly nothing like Russell Wilson.
 

Omar10213245

Well-known member
Tell you right now, Connor at rb, Haskins at qb, running very simple RPO offense with wide-zone zone blocking scheme, like shanahan runs with the 9ers, the golden domer at flanker, johnson at wr, Washington at split end and you “actually” ran Haskins up to 7-10 a game, youd have a better offense than what we had last year. Haskins has strong arm and is very accurate. But he’s not going to stand back their and run a “west coast offense” Without a few years hard work learning it and lots of bench sitting. Neither I doubt he’s into. Seattle has the one of best offenses because it‘s unpredictable wilson just keeps moving the chains. if you expecting to throw the ball 55 times for 170 yards and expect to win you are stupid. Defenses are just too fast, fuk, just look at ours. you Have to run the qb enough that he’s a threat and then it’s all down hill. if you can’t sell the threat of the qb running RPO offenses are a joke... like the offense we put out there. The weakness of our offense was really exposed in ‘19 . The fact took it took about 10 games into 20 before teams really woke up shows you how shitty the coaching in NFL is. Press our wrs, with our phony running game, then the 2yrd passing scheme falls apart, game over. With Ben coming back expect same result for ‘22. The games changed and as usual Steelers haven’t.
Haskins is not a quality runner from the qb position. He's actually quite poor at it
 

slashsteel

Well-known member
Brad a lot of time went into that collection of data. Kudos! If you ever have time can you break down Ben's stats by season per quarter and playoff game 1st and 2nd half? Air yards, etc.
 

Drink IRON City

Well-known member
When Rudolph started getting into a groove/rhythm in the Cleveland game last year, he was making some really spot on throws. His deep ball accuracy is something to consider. Not saying Rudolph is the answer, but could be the stop gap, the Mike Tomzack. He would do well under the Canada offense. His progression and understanding of pro defenses is better than Haskins.


Very true Falco, I've said in the past that 2 seasons ago when we got our view of Rudolf, it wasn't a very fair shake due to all the turmoil that incurred. If Rednose ends up playing any significant time I"m thinking many here will be a little surprised. He is no BEN but could carry us, like you say in a stop gap way.




Salute the nation
 

Punxsutawney

Well-known member
Very true Falco, I've said in the past that 2 seasons ago when we got our view of Rudolf, it wasn't a very fair shake due to all the turmoil that incurred. If Rednose ends up playing any significant time I"m thinking many here will be a little surprised. He is no BEN but could carry us, like you say in a stop gap way.




Salute the nation

He might be good enough to keep the Steelers competitive if enough pieces are around him.

What impressed me about Rudolph's last start was that the Browns, knowing that he was going to be the starter, said they went back and watched his 4 INT against them in 2019 and threw a lot of same defenses at him. He obviously showed some growth and improvement between 2019 and 2020.

With his deep ball passing, I would like to see what he could do in a strong play action offense, especially with a receiver like Claypool.

The problem is the Steelers are long ways from having the type of running game needed to make that style of offense work.
 

SteelerSask

Well-known member
No offense. I'm sure people enjoy this type of exercise, but with all due respect C'mon. Truth is Rudolph had a very tumultuous 1st attempt at starting including a horrendous concussion and being physically attacked on the field. In his one showing (and I do not care if people lose their shit here) he was better on the road then Ben was the next week against the same team at home. So those simulations are worth shit.
 

Coach

Well-known member
With our schedule and free agent losses, with Ben we might be one of the 7 AFC playoff teams, but our chances of advancing in the playoffs are slim So what's the point? Our window is closed.

Without Ben we do not make the playoffs, but we sure can build for the future and get there in 2022. And that future would include a QB drafted in 2021 in rounds one or two.

Now if we actually had a running game and an OL, the offense can be re-tooled. But as we know, we do not.
 
An interesting hypothesis. The thing about those models though is that they view each of the QBs as a stagnant variable (What you've received before is what you'll receive now). That means it doesn't take into account Ben either playing better because he's had a year and half for his ligaments to mend or falling off the proverbial cliff. It doesn't take into account that Rudolph and Haskins are both relatively young and could grow as QBs (or fall off the proverbial cliff).
I know that there is no statistical model that can account for these occurrences when trying to predict what WILL happen. I'm just saying that they are better if viewed as what MAY happen. Because the unknown variables are out there and they will have a say in the final outcome.
What you are saying is that this ELO-metrics thing is definitively, NOT a "dynamic" mathematical model. Which thus makes it very inaccurate.
 

Steelr4evr

Well-known member
Our window started to close after the Greebay Superbowl loss. As those players left or retired, it's been downhill since then.

When the Steelers left aggressive smashmouth football ,so did their chances of winning a championship.


The culture of the team has changed. I don't see them ever winning a championship with the staff they have. They'll be mediocre and always fatally flawed when it gets to be crunch time against high level, well prepared, motivated teams in the playoffs.

They have a body of work over the last 12 YEARS to show the same characteristics repeated over and over again.

I'd love for them to prove me wrong, but I'm highly skeptical it can get done without a change at the top. Ever. Still fun to watch, but it really doesn't matter what players they have or who they draft, if the maestro doesn't know how to conduct the orchestra.
 

SteelerFan448

Well-known member
Our window started to close after the Greebay Superbowl loss. As those players left or retired, it's been downhill since then.

When the Steelers left aggressive smashmouth football ,so did their chances of winning a championship.
I disagree. The offense has been good enough to win over the past decade. I’ll acknowledge there were some injury issues mixed in there over the years during the playoffs, but overall, still good enough to go one and done. The lack of talent on defense was a huge problem. The lack of smash mouth football had nothing to do with the lack of titles.
The culture of the team has changed. I don't see them ever winning a championship with the staff they have. They'll be mediocre and always fatally flawed when it gets to be crunch time against high level, well prepared, motivated teams in the playoffs.
I do agree on this one. The Steelers used to play a physical brand of football. They played with a chip on their shoulder. A bunch of unheralded guys raised their level of play and they played together as a team. That philosophy shifted to a we will win because we have more talent. More about individual numbers than team success.
 

Steelr4evr

Well-known member
I disagree. The offense has been good enough to win over the past decade. I’ll acknowledge there were some injury issues mixed in there over the years during the playoffs, but overall, still good enough to go one and done. The lack of talent on defense was a huge problem. The lack of smash mouth football had nothing to do with the lack of titles.

I do agree on this one. The Steelers used to play a physical brand of football. They played with a chip on their shoulder. A bunch of unheralded guys raised their level of play and they played together as a team. That philosophy shifted to a we will win because we have more talent. More about individual numbers than team success.
It's the coaching buddy. That's my whole point. It isn't going to get done. Nothing in 12 years has told me ,yeah these guys have brilliant football tactics capable of adapting and changing when things don't work. We crash into a fire ball when teams game plan for our predictably later on in the season. We don't seem to have battle plans for anyone.No answer other than what was installed for the season. It's lazy.We routinely get smacked in the mouth by sub .500 teams, when we should be rolling them.

Same song and dance. We will be having this same conversation every year. It's on the owners. It's really just a matter of how many more years do we get to see the same exact show? 3 years? 5 years or more? heck another 5 years it will be 17 years since they've achieved anything noteworthy.
 
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