While second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph has arguably been the best quarterback on the field for the Pittsburgh Steelers so far this preseason, especially when you equalize the equation for the quality of opponent, one of the things that has still not shown up much in his game has been an aggressive deep ball approach.
Those he’s not the type of quarterback whose arm doubles for a cannon, the deep ball had been a core part of his repertoire at Oklahoma State, but it hasn’t really shown up too much so far in the NFL. Even in practice this summer, he admitted that he hasn’t had as many opportunities to go deep, crediting the defensive coverage for taking it away.
On Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs, Rudolph only attempted three passes that traveled 20 or more yards in the air. Two of them came on third-down situations. He converted one of them to James Washington for 22 yards and third and 11. He talked about that situationally aggressive mentality after the game.
“I think [it’s just] based on the situation. You’ve got to be aggressive there on third and long, obviously backed up”, he said via the team’s website. “We hurt ourselves. There were some miscues. We weren’t as sharp, but we finished well, we came back and played the next play, played the next series, and that’s all you can do in that situation. So I was pleased”.
The only other pass of at least 20 air yards that he attempted came at the 9:09 mark in the second quarter, and that was an unscripted play on second and two. Rudolph had gotten flushed out of the pocket and was able to drift to his right. He saw Eli Rogers flash open in the end zone and let the ball go, but it fell incomplete.
His longest throw other than that was one of 15 air yards intended for Xavier Grimble, which the fourth-year tight end dropped on second and long. For the game, his intended air yards on 15 pass attempts was nine yards. He did complete 10 of 15 attempts for 77 yards.
Still, one would like to see him be able to muster up a couple of scripted deep ball attempts before the preseason is through. Though he only had eight total attempts in the first week of the preseason, only one of his passes traveled at least 20 yards, that being a 22-yard pass. That play came on second and 12 and went incomplete to Tevin Jones.
The deep ball is an important part of the Steelers’ offense, and one of the reasons the Steelers liked Rudolph is because he had deep-ball success in college. At least he is showing the requisite level of aggressiveness when the situation calls for it, but there needs to be more balance between a proactive and reactive approach.