Mentioned this on Friday’s The Terrible Podcast but wanted to share here. One answer, two actually, from this week caught my eye. And not in a good eye.
Mason Rudolph and Randy Fichtner spoke to the media on Thursday. And though they were seemingly referencing different plays, their answers pointed to a philosophical divide that should raise eyebrows.
Essentially unprompted, Rudolph brought up his INT against the Colts. The third down throw on the first possession of the game, the ball going through JuJu Smith-Schuster’s hands and picked by CB Kenny Moore. Immediately, we all knew the issue on the play. Good throw by Rudolph, fit into a tight window but clanging off JuJu’s mitts, that’s on the receiver for dropping it.
To hear Rudolph tell it? Randy Fichtner thinks that pick is on his QB. Here’s what Rudolph said, according to the Steelers’ official transcript.
“I thought I forced one in there on the interception early, so sometimes the better thing to do, if you look back at the tape, you had a guy in the flat right there that would have gotten you eight to 10 [yards]. Maybe you don’t get the first down, but you help out the net punt that Randy talks about. We want to play past the sticks, and we want to move the chains, but you have to think about the bigger picture and field position and not turning the ball over and putting your defense in a bad spot.”
Ok first of all…no. That was a great throw. Rudolph should be praised, not admonished, for pushing the ball and making an NFL throw. He made the right read, the right placement, and just got unlucky by his #1 receiver not doing his job.
Make that throw every time. That has to be Fichtner’s message. Give him confidence on an INT that clearly isn’t his fault.
Instead? Fichtner seems to be talking about punts and net yardage. There’s a time and place for that conversation, like Rudolph taking the sack/safety when he needed to do literally anything else, but not on 3rd down when he made the right read and executed.
So fast forward a few hours when Fichtner had his media scrum. He was asked about the Steelers’ red zone inefficiency, they’re 28th this season, and basically flat out said Rudolph needs to be more aggressive. Again, via the team transcript.
“I think the difference when you see the growth of a young quarterback is pulling the trigger in tight spaces. It doesn’t get any tighter than when you get down there. Field shrunk, decisions must be made quick, and you’ve got to be prepared to pull the trigger and live with that consequence. Just talk about Ben [Roethlisberger]. You know, Ben’s been down that road so many times. There isn’t any consequence he’s afraid to stand up here in front of you, and the fans, and his owner, and his head coach, me, and say, “hey, my fault.” So, Mason’s got to get to that point where maybe the easy throw was to throw it short, maybe we broke a tackle and scored, nice job, but boy, it was coming open behind him and just anticipate that a little bit and be able to make that throw.”
So we’re hearing two things.
On the one hand, Rudolph is basically telling the media Fichtner is reminding him of net yardage and being smart and not taking risks that’s going to hurt this team. Fichtner turns around and says he’s trying to get Rudolph to make aggressive decisions and fit the ball into tight windows.
Which is it?
And yes, there’s situational football to discuss. Times where you want your QB to take a chance and times when you want him to take a profit and live to fight another day. Quarterback play isn’t black and white. It’s not one-size-fits-all.
But at the least, I don’t like the language here. If for nothing else, Fichtner seemingly being unhappy with Rudolph’s pick. That was an NFL level throw, one I want to see a lot more of, and if he truly wants this offense to evolve and his young quarterback to break out of his shell, it’s imperative they get on the same page and encourage an aggressive mindset..