The Pittsburgh Steelers know that they will have to go the rest of the season without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has already been placed on the Reserve/Injured List with an elbow injury on which he will soon have surgery, as he looks to make a return for the 2020 season.
They are moving forward with Mason Rudolph, their first of two third-round selections a year ago, and a player whom they viewed as being within the same group as the five quarterbacks who were selected ahead of him in the first round, two of whom are also in the AFC North in Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson.
While he slipped to the third round, that was, in part, because the Steelers valued the position of his teammate, James Washington, more. They selected Washington, a wide receiver, in the second round, but had they valued the quarterback position highly in the 2018 NFL Draft, Rudolph would have been drafted first.
The two played four years together at Oklahoma State and had a fantastic connection, which was obviously good enough to make both of them high draft picks. Now, with Rudolph in the starting lineup, even head coach Mike Tomlin concedes that can have a positive impact on Washington’s playing time.
“I think that might be an unintended consequence of having both guys”, he said when asked that question earlier today during his pre-game press conference. “I know that we’ve seen evidence of that in the time that they’ve been here, and that’s a cool thing”.
Rudolph connected on four touchdown passes during the preseason this year, and two of them went to Washington. One was a well-executed back-shoulder throw in the red zone, while the other was a deep post pattern that went for over 40 yards.
Collegiately, Rudolph completed 915 of 1447 passes for 13618 yards with 92 touchdown passes and 26 interceptions. Washington caught 226 passes for 4472 yards with 39 touchdowns, averaging just under 20 yards per pass attempt.
So far through the first two games of the regular season, the second-year wide receiver has not been a huge part of the offense, though he did play more snaps on Sunday than he did the week before. he has four receptions for 74 yards, the majority of which came on a 45-yard catch in the season opener.
Rudolph played all of the second half on Sunday. He completed 12 of 19 passes for 1122 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, but that interception came on a dropped pass by Donte Moncrief, whom Rudolph probably will not have to throw to much going forward, unless something changes.