It’s certainly not difficult to envision an alternative scenario in which Mason Rudolph is taking the field to start for the Pittsburgh Steelers today. Quite simply, if he could have avoided having a couple of large New York Jets defenders landing on him and injuring his shoulder, chances are that would have been the case.
Last week, Mike Tomlin was forced to make the decision to pull Devlin Hodges from the game after he threw two interceptions in the first half. This was a game after he threw four interceptions. Rudolph came in after having been benched himself several weeks ago under similar circumstances, and he played representative ball until he was injured, even coming back from a 10-0 deficit before being knocked out prior to the start of the fourth quarter.
Part of the reason that Tomlin was comfortable in making the decision to switch back to Rudolph is because he had seen his demeanor over the course of the past several weeks while he was functioning as Hodges’ backup, and that encouraged him.
“He has worked hard since his benching several weeks ago, and I really just think it speaks to his character”, he told Bob Pompeani on the Mike Tomlin Show yesterday. “I’m not surprised by that, but it’s worth noting that his day-to-day demeanor did not change. His level of preparation and overall readiness did not change”.
The Steelers used a third-round draft choice on the quarterback out of Oklahoma State in 2018, believing that he possessed first-round talent and could potentially be the successor at the position to Ben Roethlisberger in time.
He did not exactly clinch that distinction for the future with his play this year, but nor has he proven in the coaches’ eyes that he can’t possibly be the answer at the position in time. He is still a young and developing player, and they knew he would be on the field again.
“I knew it was just a matter of time before the football gods gave him an opportunity to bounce back, and he proved that he was ready”, Tomlin said. “Unfortunately for him, he sustained another injury, and that’s as much a part of the game as blocking and tackling”.
And unfortunately, for him, chances are the Steelers will have Roethlisberger up and running next year, and for the next two years, so he probably won’t have many opportunities to see the field, and thus to show that he is worthy of being regarded as a true starter in waiting to the franchise position.