The Pittsburgh Steelers have been eager to find out what they have in Mason Rudolph ever since they selected him in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Now they have no choice but to do so, with Ben Roethlisberger having only played the first six quarters of the 2019 season.
Outside of about five quarters since then, it’s been all Rudolph, who has only missed time—including the game out west against the Los Angeles Chargers, started by Devlin Hodges—because of a concussion. It’s certainly been a process, and Rudolph is still very much learning. The defense understands this quite a bit.
You may have heard Bud Dupree this past week following his big game, in which he recorded two sacks, talking about understanding the stakes, both for himself and for the team. He said that the defense knew it was on them once Roethlisberger went down, and they’re all just trying to support their young quarterback.
Minkah Fitzpatrick hit on a similar tone when he appeared on the Golic and Wingo show this past week. While he discussed the Alabama game—before it happened, and surely he wasn’t happy with yesterday’s result—he brushed on a number of topics, including Rudolph.
“Mason, he’s a good quarterback. He’s gonna go out there and compete. He’s gonna prepare all week during the week”, he said. “We’re going out there on defense trying to prepare him, give him different looks and everything else like that”.
“It’s our job to support him as a young quarterback”, he added. “It’s tough in this league, defense throwing things at you that you haven’t gone against. But he’s doing a good job, and we’re just trying to do our job to go out there, compete our hardest for him, and support him”.
By and large, the defense has done that. In the only two games that the Steelers have lost since Roethlisberger’s injury, late fumbles in the fourth quarter and overtimes were arguably the biggest swings shifting from a potential win to a loss. This also happens to coincide with the Steelers’ acquisition of Fitzpatrick.
The hope is that, at some point during the second season, the offense will stabilize more to the point where less of the burden is on the defense, but that is hard to do with a young quarterback who doesn’t have much support out of the backfield right now.