When it comes to a backup quarterback needing to come in and replace a starter, whether it’s for a long period of time or a short duration, the question that becomes a concern is always about the system. Do we have to change things around in order to accommodate the shift from one passer to another?
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, the answer to that question has been decidedly and universally no. Now that they know that they will have to move forward with Mason Rudolph at quarterback following Ben Roethlisberger’s season-ending elbow injury that will require surgery to continue to play, they can at least take comfort in knowing that the only thing changing is the personnel, and not the scheme.
Seemingly everybody has been repeatedly asked that question. Rudolph most recently was asked about that yesterday in an extended pool interview session in the locker room. “I don’t think it’s gonna change. I’m a prototypical guy”, he said, “and that’s kind of our offense, what they ask us to do. I don’t see that changing at all”.
This echoes the same comments that he made after Sunday’s game, during which he played the second half after Roethlisberger left the contest. He was asked if they made half-time adjustments; they did not. Mike Tomlin gave the same answer. Players interviewed in the locker room said the same thing: nothing changed about how they ran the offense.
Because they don’t have to. Because Rudolph is fully capable of executing exactly their gameplan. Of course, there will always be variances in nuance, based on personal preferences, but in terms of what he’s capable of running, the Steelers are confident in their ability to run everything.
“Every quarterback has their favorites out of the gameplan”, Rudolph said. “I always star my stuff and listen to what Ben likes in meetings Saturday night. I just made sure I communicated that stuff to [offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner] and I was ready to roll with my favorites”.
“We didn’t shrink the playbook at all”, veteran left guard Ramon Foster said. Foster is now the oldest player on the 53-man roster. The fact that Rudolph already has the respect and support of his veteran offensive linemen is the best possible sign for him and the unit as a whole.
Following an ugly first series in the game—he ended up throwing incompletions on his first three attempts, though one of them was a bad drop by Donte Moncrief that should have been a third-and-long conversion but was instead an interception—Rudolph was able to drive the offense down the field.
Though one of them was just three yards, the offense did score on three of his five series, including three of the final four. He got them back to within two points with 5:34 left to play, but the defense was never able to give him a chance to have the ball back.