The Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping that they won’t have to rely on him for a while—Ben Roethlisberger is seeing to it that he keeps him off the field for as long as he possibly can—but rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph showed incremental growth over the course of the preseason that was encouraging in terms of his future development as a possible starter down the line.
Most notable in contrast with his earlier performances—especially his start in the second preseason game when he seemed to become gun-shy following a pick six on his first pass—fact the fact that he was more willing to drive the ball down the field. That paid off on his first drive, ending in a 24-yard touchdown to Tevin Jones. It was third and 20.
The Steelers brought him in at the end of the second quarter to see how he handled running the two-minute offense, and he capitalized, before playing all of the second half. I saw a lot that I liked in those two quarters in terms of ball placement, but his receivers didn’t always do him favors. If you slow this one down, you can see it went off Jones’ hands.
Just as important as accuracy, however, is the ability to read the field. two plays after failing to connect with Jones on first down, Rudolph felt out Quadree Henderson in a soft zone on third and eight and easily hit his target, giving him a chance to run after the catch.
This one ought to have been a touchdown pass to tight end Pharoah McKever, just barely getting the ball over the hands of the trailing linebacker in coverage, but the receiver was unable to secure it. He is now on the Browns’ practice squad.
Rudolph was able to come back two plays later and finish it off, however, first scrambling out of the pocket and rolling to his right to avoid pressure. He kept his eyes down the field before throwing across his body to Henderson, wide open for the touchdown.
The pass itself could have been better, of course, but given the circumstances, it worked. He was running away from the play, throwing from, frankly, the air, and most importantly, he targeted a wide-open receiver, so he knew it wasn’t at risk of producing a red-zone turnover. Henderson’s height didn’t do the quarterback any favors, either, but he made an excellent play to save the down.