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: How will Mason Rudolph respond from not only the worst game of his career, but a week of media scrutiny and accusations?
Mason Rudolph said even before he was drafted, and after as well, that he fully believed he was more than capable of sliding right into a starting role for an NFL team. He was drafted by a team with an established franchise quarterback instead in the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger, and so he knew he would have to wait.
A freak occurrence in his second season, leaving Roethlisberger sidelined for 14-plus games, however, afforded Rudolph a mini-starting job, a one-season audition before the franchise guy returns. He is now in the driver’s seat, for all intents and purposes, and everything that goes along with it.
And boy, is he finding out the breadth of what that entails. He’s been celebrated for wins, and for big-time throws. He’s been defended for the poor execution of his skill position players. He’s also been roasted for his conservative, checkdown approach, and now coming off a four-interception game.
As if that were not enough, he was also in the center of a media storm from…well, you already know what from. Even though he was clonked on the head with his own helmet by an opponent, Rudolph has still been raked over the coals by some sectors of the media, not to mention fans of opposing teams, for trying to take Myles Garrett’s helmet off, charging in his direction, and even things he didn’t actually do, like punching him in the genitals.
And then there was the big one—Garrett accused him of using a racial epithet, a report that leaked out late this past week, which reportedly left Rudolph “distraught”, according to Cameron Heyward. He was going to speak to the media before that came out, but it was cancelled.
Quite simply, how does he respond from all of this?