The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.
The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.
How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? Who is sitting out due to injury?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Admit it: were you one of the people calling for Mason Rudolph to be benched by the end of the first quarter of last night’s game?
By the end of the first quarter of the Steelers’ victory over the Miami Dolphins, second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph very much looked like a young, inexperienced quarterback who had not played in weeks, and whose last snap on the field resulted in a concussion.
Through the team’s first two drives, he had completed only one of six official pass attempts for 14 yards, with one interception, and another pass that was nearly intercepted, if not for the defender’s foot being out of bounds when he secure the ball.
On his next three dropbacks, he completed one of two passes for nine yards—a checkdown to James Conner that converted on third and six—and he took a sack, losing the ball, but David DeCastro was able to recover it. He unnecessarily slid to his right on the play and put himself in the rush lane.
From that point on, he completed 18 of 28 pass attempts for 228 yards and two touchdowns. While one of those two touchdowns was a 45-yard catch-and-run against an all-out blitz, he would have gotten most of that yardage from a pass he completed to Diontae Johnson that was flagged for offensive pass interference.
Rudolph clearly looked, and looked like he felt, more comfortable over the course of the game, and he started to make better decisions and find his accuracy, establishing a better launch point on his throws. He definitely showed progress through the final three quarters, though obviously with some improvement.
Now imagine if the coaching staff actually pulled him in favor of Devlin Hodges after the first two drives. In hindsight, it certainly seems like a kneejerk response, but a significant minority of people were calling for just that to happen.