Making your first career start, on the road, against a good team, in a completely different time zone, is not exactly the ideal circumstance, but usually players making their debut due to injury don’t have the good fortune of doing so under ideal circumstances.
Such was the case for Pittsburgh Steelers second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph, who started his first of 14 planned games this season after starter Ben Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending elbow injury that put him on the Reserve/Injured List.
Roethlisberger checked out of last week’s game as the first half ended, and Rudolph played the entirety of the second half. Albeit in a losing effort, he showed well, completing 12 of 18 attempts for 112 yards and two touchdowns—plus the interception on the 19th attempt that was due to a drop by Donte Moncrief, who was a ‘healthy’ scratch yesterday.
While Rudolph managed another 2:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in another losing effort, playing the whole game this time, he didn’t look as comfortable or poised as he did making his playing debut against the Seattle Seahawks the week before. still, his teammates were comfortable with him.
“For a young guy to start his first game, an away game all the way on the west coast going against a great team, I think he handled himself well”, his top wide receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster, told reporters in the locker room after the game, via the team’s website. “Situations where we messed up on plays or we didn’t execute or turned the ball over, he stayed positive and he kept us going”.
One quality that has been consistently attractive about Rudolph is that he has possessed a good demeanor throughout the entire process, when he was drafted lower than he expected, when he wasn’t hitting on his throws as a rookie, sitting on the bench, and then even when he was doing well. Throughout everything, he had the right attitude about things.
He’s not getting too high with the highs or low with the lows, and even yesterday reflected that. He handled his media obligations very well after the game, answering questions in a calm, cool, and collected manner for seven-plus minutes at the podium.
I don’t think there’s really any much doubt that Rudolph does legitimately have the support of his teammates. Everybody knows that he’s not Roethlisberger, on or off the field—he’ll be the first to say this is still Big Ben’s team—but the locker room knows who he is, and has his back.
That’s because of not just his talent, but the qualities that he brings with his personality and demeanor, and we see that reflected in comments made since last week by Smith-Schuster, David DeCastro, Vance McDonald, and others. That attitude is going to be necessary to get through the rocky transition currently underway.