Duck, Duck…Deer? And then Duck again. Because nothing about this season has been normal. In the midst of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ second consecutive loss, they benched the quarterback for whom their previous starter was benched. That previous starter played well while he was in, only to suffer an injury and be forced back out of the game.
But second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph did look good while he had the opportunity to play today against the New York Jets. He ultimately completed 14 of 20 passes for 129 yards with a touchdown, and he did not turn the ball over. Coming off the bench, he generally made smart, if not safe decisions to protect the ball.
And he wiped out a 10-0 deficit to help tie the game at halftime, including a 29-yard touchdown pass to Dionte Johnson just before halftime, but he wouldn’t make it through the third quarter. Rudolph seemed to land on his left shoulder multiple times, evidently the significant blow coming under unusual circumstances.
On the first play after Maurkice Pouncey was injured, Rudolph and B.J. Finney, the backup center, go tangled up. Rudolph subsequently tripped as he was attempting to hand the ball off, but instead decided to eat the ball rather than risk a fumble. Multiple Jets defenders would bring him down hard, and he clearly winced in extreme pain, landing on his shoulder.
Given the circumstances, it looks as though Hodges will probably start the season finale, which is obviously a must-win. That may depend upon the severity of Rudolph’s injury, but considering he had to come out of this game, it doesn’t look good.
The performance, however, does throw him a bit of a lifeline, at least in the public sector, after the fan base tore him down following a stretch of bad play that led to his benching. After he was picked off four times in a 21-7 road loss to the Cleveland Browns, Mike Tomlin decided to pull him in the second half a week later as he continued to struggle.
Hodges did well enough to stay in the starting lineup, but he was yanked today under similar circumstances, throwing six interceptions over six quarters of play. It was all set for Rudolph to come back the triumphant hero, and for a while, it almost looked as though that would happen.
The injury, of course, derailed that script, but if he doesn’t play again this season, it at least leaves everybody would a better last impression of him heading into 2020, and I suppose that’s worth something.