Mason Rudolph officially has one start under his belt. He entered this season as the number three quarterback, having spent every game of his rookie season sitting on the bench without a uniform on. While he won the backup job this summer, he was still firmly rooted in that number two role, behind a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger.
Rudolph is the first person to remind people that this is still Roethlisberger’s team, even now that he is on the Reserve/Injured List with an elbow issue that will keep him out for the season and which will be operated upon shortly.
None of that matters on the field, however. Roethlisberger might help out with the game plan, but it’s Rudolph who is on the field, running the offense, taking the ball, making the throws, making the audibles if necessary. He’s running the show.
His first show left a lot to be desired in a 24-20 losing effort, in which he accounted for about two thirds of his passing yards on seven percent of his passing attempts. He went 14 for 27 for 174 passing yards, but 115 of those yards came on two passes. He averaged 2.36 yards per attempt on the other 25.
Rudolph was asked about how he manages to lead the offense under the circumstances, and given the overall trajectory and performance of the offense under him. They struggled to move the ball and sustain drives, which has those on the outside nervous about things coming undone. “How do they rally around you?”, he was asked.
“They rally around me. They know who I am, they know how I work. They know my love of the game, so that’s not the issue”, he told reporters from the podium after the game. “It’s just gonna be a matter of getting back to work and going through another work week and moving on to Cincinnati, putting a good plan in place, and getting in the win column”.
The Steelers are off to a terrible 0-3 start to the season, their worst since 2013 when they lost their first four games. A year ago, they came out of the first quarter of the season with a 1-2-1 record, and they have already guaranteed a worse start than that.
That doesn’t mean they can’t turn things around. That’s not to say that such a turn of events is likely, or even has a good chance of happening, but it’s not unreasonable. The season is still young, and this team is still shaping itself through some important transitions.
That includes the transition, albeit temporary, at the quarterback position. There are adjustments being made. But one thing that doesn’t have to be adjusted is the team’s belief in their quarterback. They’ve worked with him for 18 months now. They know who he is. It’s now a matter of putting it all together with him under center.