I would like to issue a warning before I dig too deep into this article. What is about to follow is going to be viewed as a criticism of a rookie player who is still very much learning the ropes, and it is. But the intent is not to trash him or in any way suggest that he is not doing what he ought to be doing by now. It is simply a statistic that I came across and felt was worth writing about.
During his college career at Oklahoma State, quarterback Mason Rudolph was one of the best players in the country in firing off the ball while under pressure, in spite of the fact that he earned an unfair reputation of struggling to maneuver in the pocket.
According to Pro Football Focus, he finished his collegiate career with a quarterback rating of 94.4 when throwing the ball under pressure, which is an impressive feat. That is not snaps in which he faced a blitz. That is snaps under which he was hurried or hit (not sacked, of course, because sacks don’t factor into quarterback ratings).
Mason Rudolph was one of the best QBs in college football last year when facing pressure with a 94.4 passer rating.
Halfway through the preseason here are his numbers against pressure:
— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) August 20, 2018
The point is, he was a strong performer under pressure—literal pocket pressure. Through his first two preseason games as a professional, that has yet to carry over. Again according to Pro Football Focus, he has faced pressure on 13 dropbacks through two games. He has been sacked on five of them, and he has completed just two of his eight passes that he has attempted, for a whopping two yards.
Those are ugly numbers, to be sure. They are also an incredibly small sample size, and one would be a fool to draw any sort of meaningful conclusion about who he is as a player from that data. But it is at least worth noting that, up to this point, he has not shown much poise when the opposing defense has been able to get in his face.
That would be understandable for a rookie just beginning his career. The Steelers are throwing a lot at him, early and often, even giving him the opportunity to start his second preseason game. He has already played four full quarters of football, which is a significant workload.
I have no doubt that he will begin to come around not far from now and show more of the poise that is amply present in his college tape and readily apparent virtually every time that he opens his mouth. He has looked a bit overwhelmed so far on the field, but that’s okay. He doesn’t need to play this year.
It didn’t help that he threw a pick six on literally the first offensive play of the game. While he said after the game that he let it go and moved on to the next play, we all know that’s easier said than done. At times, he looked like he was just ready for his playing time to end. And I don’t blame him.