When the Pittsburgh Steelers traded up a few spots in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft to select a quarterback when they did not need one, they did so with the understanding that they would be adding a talent to their roster that they assessed as having the capability of being a future starter.
That would be Mason Rudolph out of Oklahoma State, and after redshirting his rookie season behind Joshua Dobbs, he won the backup job this year, and it turned out to be the best possible scenario for playing time for a Steelers backup in many years. Starter Ben Roethlisberger went down in the first half of the second game of the season, so that left 14 and a half games for the depth to finish out.
Rudolph would ultimately start eight of those games, going 5-3, but he was knocked out three times along the way—twice to injury, once to performance. The third—the second injury—proved to be the most concerning. While it was largely brushed off initially, even by himself, he added further details as told to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“They were worried it would puncture my aorta”, he said of the doctors who evaluated him after the game, finding himself in the hospital undergoing a procedure after replacing a benched Devlin Hodges in the second quarter of the Week 16 game against the New York Jets. “It was very scary”.
The second-year pro actually probably injured his shoulder multiple times in the game, but the final came one play after Maurkice Pouncey was injured. On the next snap, he got tangled with backup center B.J. Finney, causing him to eat a handoff, upon which he was tackled hard by multiple defenders and clearly winced in significant pain.
“I thought it was a bad AC sprain. I played a couple more plays and throws with it”, he said. “Adrenaline was still pumping. Once I came over to the sideline it stiffened up and I was like, ‘I can’t even move my left arm or left side of my body’. It was pretty painful”.
Prior to being forced out due to the injury, Rudolph completed 14 of 20 pass attempts in the game for 129 yards with one touchdown. He led the team to 10 points in less than a half of play, pulling even with the Jets at the time after entering a 10-0 game following a second interception from Hodges.
“I thought I was right back in it there,”, he said of seeing his first action after several weeks since his original benching due to performance, with Hodges starting the subsequent four games. “I was excited to get another chance and win the game and lead us to the playoffs and it happened again”.
Head coach Mike Tomlin already told reporters yesterday during his press conference that he is proceeding into the offseason with Rudolph as the backup to Ben Roethlisberger. Currently, both of them are recovering from injuries that placed them on the Reserve/Injured List and neither will be able to throw passes at least in the early portions of the offseason.