For the second year in a row, Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin has used the first two games of the preseason to alter the starter. Joshua Dobbs started the first preseason game of each season, with Mason Rudolph starting the second. Coming out as a starter is different for many reasons, not the least of which being that you tend to get to face a higher quality of defense.
At least for the first couple of drives of Sunday night’s game, that is what he got against the Kansas City Chiefs, who finished the 2018 season as one of the best teams in the NFL, taking the New England Patriots to overtime in the AFC Championship Game.
Rudolph was asked about playing against a starting defense, which he did in the second preseason game, for just the second time in his career. “It’s fun. I think when you’re going one against one, that’s always exciting to do”, he said, via the team’s website, in the locker room after the game.
“It was a new set of faces and numbers, some good players out there. It matters, but as long as we control what we can control as an offense, they can have whoever they want on defense. As long as we execute, we’ll move the ball. That’s kind of our philosophy”.
The offense did struggle to move the ball in the early drives against the Chiefs’ starters, but Rudolph didn’t get a lot of help from his supporting cast. They opened with a three-and-out when he threw just a bit wide to JuJu Smith-Schuster on third and two. The third drive ended just as it was getting started as Donte Moncrief fumbled on the first play. On the drive in between, Chukwuma Okorafor allowed him to be sacked on third down.
Obviously, you would have liked to have seen Rudolph gain more than a single first down on three drives, but some of that was out of his control, particularly the Moncrief play. The fourth drive ended with two plays that were drops or failures on the targets’ part as well. He moved the ball after that, ushering a long scoring drive that included some key third-down conversions.
In all, he finished completing 10 of 15 passes for 77 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, but he did lead a touchdown drive, while getting little help from anybody outside of James Washington. He was the only quarterback on the night, on either team, to complete at least two thirds of his passes, and that was with some drops.
For the moment, it appears that he may have a slight edge in the battle for the backup quarterback position, but it’s far from over, and likely will take until the final preseason game is determined, especially as Devlin Hodges tries to shoulder his way into the mix.