The Pittsburgh Steelers were forced into starting an inexperienced quarterback this year after their franchise piece, Ben Roethlisberger, was lost for the season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. Prior to the second half of the second game of this season, second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph had never taken an NFL snap, but he was and is the team’s starter from that point on.
While he is technically 1-2 in his three starts, he has generally done his part, including throwing five touchdowns in those three games (and two in the game in which he came in for Roethlisberger), though obviously with plenty of room for improvement.
For most of his career, Roethlisberger has had experienced, veteran backups, but the Steelers modified their philosophy about the backup position in his later years, now on the search for potential heir apparents. Rudolph is their heir apparent now until he proves otherwise, and they understand that this situation gives them an opportunity to get a long look at him.
Former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher knows a little something about playing a young quarterback, as he had to start Roethlisberger just two games into his career as a rookie in 2004. He appeared on The Fan last week to touch on a number of topics, and he talked about the development of the offense as a parallel to Rudolph’s own comfort level.
“Mason’s been in that system for a couple years now, and I think the more he plays, the more comfortable that he’ll become, the more that they’ll allow him to do some things to open things up”, the former head coach told his hosts. “I think in the meantime, I think they’re very comfortable with him”, he went on.
While Rudolph’s numbers generally look good, though, there is major room for improvement in situational football and capitalizing on short fields. The running game needs a lot of work as well. These all should improve as the quarterback play does.
“They are who they are, and I think when you look at this team, what you’re in the process of doing is you’re transitioning”, Cowher offered. He said that Rudolph’s entrance into the lineup re-defines the offense. “Who’s Mason’s go-to guys, who’s the next person to step up from there?”, he asked.
“I think it’s an offense that’s a work in progress, and it’s gonna continue to evolve as the season goes on, and I think that’s not a bad thing”, he concluded. “I think sometimes in the past, you’ve had the Killer Bs where they could just turn it on and turn it off. I think right now, this offense in Pittsburgh is evolving, and where it goes, really, will be on a week-to-week basis”.
Rudolph missed the last game due to a concussion, but he has already been cleared and will resume starting next week against the Miami Dolphins. Will we see the offense take another step forward?