The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The short week on the road was a major detriment for Mason Rudolph to overcome.
Explanation: There is a pretty solid history of Thursday night games in which the road team is frequently overwhelmed by the home team. The homefield advantage tends to be more pronounced on a short week with less time to prepare. Throw in an inexperienced quarterback to the mix, and there can be problems.
Playing on the road without much preparation time is not the reason that Mason Rudolph made bad decisions and bad throws. It’s not why he missed open receivers. But it played a huge role in his struggles, absolutely, having a hand in everything.
The pressure of the crowd is more intense on the road. This offense has only won one game outside of Heinz Field this year, and that was against the Los Angeles Chargers, who don’t really have a ‘home’ stadium.
Rudolph is a football junkie who understands that his greatest asset is his mind and his preparation. He didn’t get to have that in this game, and it showed. He looked more flustered than I’ve ever seen him before, and it seemed to snowball into larger and larger problems.
If there was any outside factor contributing to his struggles, it was the fact that Rudolph didn’t have any help. He didn’t have a run game, for one thing, with James Conner checking out pretty early in the game and the other running backs offering nothing.
Over the course of the game, he lost both JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson to concussions. He was throwing a lot of balls to Johnny Holton, to give you a barometer for how bad it got, with Tevin Jones ending up with a big role.
Aside from that, a lot of the mistakes that Rudolph made weren’t about preparation. His interceptions were just bad throws, underthrows, overthrows, fixing on a lone target. The situation plays a small role in that, but it’s no excuse for sure.