The Pittsburgh Steelers are crossing their fingers in the hopes of having found themselves a franchise quarterback for a relative bargain rate when they were able to draft Mason Rudolph, a player whom they graded as a first-rounder, in the third.
The team got to see him in game action for the first time last night in their preseason debut against the Philadelphia Eagles, and he completed 11 of 20 passes for 212 yards, though he did not lead the team to any touchdown drives during two quarters of play.
“I felt comfortable and I felt like I improved” over the course of the game, he told reporters about his initial impressions about playing in the NFL. “I think when you get a couple snaps under your belt you feel a little more like you’re in a groove. I think it was a good first step”.
While Rudolph is assured of a roster spot, his goal is to push to become the Steelers’ backup quarterback behind starter Ben Roethlisberger as soon as possible. The team’s current backup, Landry Jones, connected with JuJu Smith-Schuster on a 71-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. Joshua Dobbs also had a touchdown pass.
The Steelers did score three times in the second half with Rudolph under center, though they all came from the leg of kicker Chris Boswell. They never had a first-and-goal situation, the closest they got to the end zone being the 14-yard line, and that was on a drive that started at the 16 thanks to a strip sack that the defense recovered.
“I had the one center-quarterback exchange, I’ve got to clean that up”, Rudolph said of his initial impressions of what he needs to work on. Having played primarily from the shotgun at Oklahoma State, he knew that taking snaps from under center would be important, and there was one sloppy exchange during the game.
“Other than that, I think throwing to 13 [James Washington] a little bit more could help. I played pretty clean, checked it down when I needed to, pushed the ball down the field”.
Washington, the wide receiver, was drafted in the second round by the Steelers before they came back to get the guy who was throwing him the football for the better part of four years. The two have been a prolific duo in training camp, but they only connected once last night.
That did come on a 35-yard gain on third and eight that set up a field goal, to be fair, but the two players already have a veteran rapport. I’m not sure as of this writing exactly what Washington’s snap disbursement looked like in the second half, but just one target over the final 30 minutes sounds low.