Mason Rudolph entered today’s game coming off the first win of his career, and with the opportunity to become just the third player to throw at least two touchdowns in each of his first four games. He got one touchdown—a 35-yard catch and run to JuJu Smith-Schuster, but while making a big-time third-down conversion to James Washington, he took a brutal shot from Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas directly to the head.
He went limp almost immediately, and proceeded to slam his head into the ground subsequently as he fell, thus taking two shots. It’s easy to try to speculate, but one would be inclined to think that the concussion that he suffered on the play is at least somewhat severe. Head Coach Mike Tomlin revealed after the game that he was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation.
Up to that point in the contest, the second-year quarterback was keeping the Steelers alive against the Ravens, finishing the game 13-for-20 up to the time of his injury for 131 yards and the one touchdown pass with a quarterback rating of 100.2.
The Pittsburgh Steelers still had their struggles, of course. Similar to the San Francisco 49ers game, they had two turnovers in scoring position and only came away with field goals, though they did finally get a touchdown off of a turnover later in the game.
Rudolph has proven himself on the field to his teammates, but what he has shown them off the field has been even more important, and you could see the impact that he had and the respect his locker room has for him when he went down.
Many players, particularly Smith-Schuster, were highly emotional. “I was just praying to God he gets up”, he said after the game, according to Teresa Varley. “I am praying for a speedy recovery”, he added, calling it a tough experience. He has already gone through the death of his wide receivers coach earlier this year, plus the loss of his quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, for the season.
“We love Mason. I love Mason”, veteran outside linebacker Bud Dupree also told Varley about the young quarterback, making his third NFL start. “When stuff like that happens, it makes a trigger go off in your brain and you have to control yourself”.
The Steelers did respond well, as Devlin Hodges checked in and finished the drive that Rudolph started, injured on that big conversion. James Conner would finish the drive with a one-yard touchdown that at the time gave them the lead.
It’s very early, but right now it’s hard to imagine that Rudolph will play out west next week against the Los Angeles Chargers. Assuming that is the case, that will mean a roster move to promote a third quarterback, either signing one off the street or promoting Paxton Lynch or Taryn Christion from the practice squad.