Outside of the simple fact of the loss, the biggest story out of yesterday’s game was two-fold. One: the injury suffered by Ben Roethlisberger to his throwing elbow; and two: the subsequent performance of second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph. It was the first opportunity for the Pittsburgh Steelers to get a look at the 2018 third-round pick since drafting him, and it was a positive one.
And perhaps they could get a bit of an extended look, depending upon the severity of Roethlisberger’s injury. He is scheduled to have an MRI done today, and we should hopefully know more then. But one thing that we do know is that if Rudolph has to play, they won’t be changing much of anything.
“We didn’t change the offense for him”, head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters after the game when he was asked if they made any adjustments at halftime to accommodate the young man. “Mason’s capable, man. He’s been a part of this thing. He’s the backup quarterback. We’re capable of functioning in a very normal manner when he’s in there, and we did”.
That echoes what Rudolph himself said after the game. Rudolph is certainly cut from a similar cloth from Roethlisberger, but the Steelers don’t have a tendency to adapt their offense to whoever’s playing quarterback. They did a bit with Mike Vick back in 2015, but it certainly wasn’t apparent that they did that with Joshua Dobbs when he came in against the Oakland Raiders a year ago.
Disregarding a dropped pass that resulted in an interception that was not his fault, Rudolph completed 12 of 18 passes for 112 yards and two touchdown passes, both of which came in goal-to-go situations within the eight-yard line, and both of them connecting with tight end Vance McDonald, who caught all seven of his targets on the day for 38 total yards.
Still, Tomlin wasn’t ready to crown the second-year pro making his NFL debut in what was ultimately a losing effort. “None of us did enough to win, so I’m not ready to comb through it in those ways”, he said when asked to evaluate Rudolph’s game. “I like some of the things that he displayed, his communication, his grit, but we’ve got to find a way to win a football game, and we weren’t able to do that today”.
The Steelers have a number of problems to resolve in all phases of the game right now, which is precisely why they’re sitting at 0-2 right now. But the good news is that, outside of the Baltimore Ravens, who are 2-0, nobody else in the division has won a game, either.
The Cincinnati Bengals are now 0-2 after getting blown out by the San Francisco 49ers yesterday. They are putting up yards, but not getting it done. The Cleveland Browns can carve out a win tonight over the New York Jets, who will be without Sam Darnold among others, but that would only get them to 1-1 in this early phase of the season.