Since Ben Roethlisberger went down, the Pittsburgh Steelers have gone 4-2 with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges under center combined. They are 4-1 in their past five games, even though they have only clawed their way back to a .500 record at the midway point.
And Rudolph and company understand that quite a bit of their success is owed not to themselves, but to their counterparts on the defensive side of the ball. When the second-year quarterback was asked to categorize his sense of who the team is, he started with the those against whom he has to practice.
“Our defense is creating turnovers at an unbelievable rate”, he told reporters during his post-game press conference. “I would like on the offensive end to be able to punch in some more of those balls in the end zone, whether we’re moving the ball down the field, or whether we’re getting a short field due to their turnovers”.
The Steelers offense struggled again once inside the red zone, as evidenced by Chris Boswell being asked to make four field goals, some of which came from in that range. Their lone offensive touchdown did come with goal to go, on third down, but too often they came up short.
“I think we’re right there. I think we’ve got good schemes, and it’s just a matter of getting the ball in the end zone” Rudolph said, “and creating some energy for our defense and backing them up when they’ve almost all season done an unbelievable job of giving us the ball on short fields, sacking the quarterback, just splash plays from the defensive side. They continue to play great. It was a great team victory, but we’re looking to do our part more and more, is how we kind of treat it”.
Really, the Steelers have done everything that they need to do on the defensive side of the ball…at some point or another. Now it’s a matter of putting it all together and continuing to do it consistently. Their greatest successes on offense have seemingly almost come across as dumb luck rather than as part of a coherent strategy.
While Rudolph’s performance can certainly be taken apart, there is so much to go into, and that includes the play-calling. I have generally been a fan of Randy Fichtner, but I’ve been more frequently finding myself questioning what the team has been running relative to the situations in which they’re being run.
So the unit has to get better not just from an execution standpoint, but from a schematic one, as well. It would help if they can actually be healthy and have a full complement of skill position players available to them, but at this point, beggars can’t be choosers.