Although they are hoping that it will be a mere footnote to their 2020 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are probably generally pleased regarding the performance that they were able to generate out of third-year quarterback Mason Rudolph during the team’s regular season finale this past Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
Head coach Mike Tomlin elected to rest a number of starters, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, sacrificing the small odds of their improving their playoff seeding from the third seed to the second by not putting his best talent on the field. Rudolph responded by throwing for over 300 yards with two touchdowns, though he also had a costly interception—which should have been called back due to roughing the passer.
Avery Williamson, who was acquired midseason via trade, got his first look at the young quarterback that game, and get a chance to see him in person nearly bringing the Steelers back from a 15-point deficit, falling short on an errant two-point conversion pass attempt.
“I thought Mason definitely carried himself well”, he said during his radio spot on The Fan yesterday. “He did a good job. He was making plays. He was surprising me. That was my first time getting to see him play in person. I definitely thought he was doing a good job for his first start this year. I felt like his confidence was rising as the game went on”.
Williamson himself started the game, as he has for the past four weeks, as inside linebacker and logged a significant amount of playing time, finishing the game with eight tackles. He has had at least seven tackles in each of the past five games, including 49 in total, averaging very nearly 10 tackles per game.
But like Rudolph, he may be taking a back seat shortly, with Robert Spillane potentially ready to return to the field. The difference being that the Steelers will likely rotate the linebackers, which they would not do at the quarterback position.
As for the game itself, Williamson was asked about the Philadelphia Eagles’ finale in which head coach Doug Pederson pulled Jalen Hurts from the game in the fourth quarter in a one-score game and replaced him with Nate Sudfeld, with the game promptly falling apart.
It has been widely called a tank job, but it also had others bring up examples of other teams not playing their starters, such as the Steelers. The veteran was asked what his response would be to critics bringing them up in the discussion.
“We definitely were trying to win”, he said. “Yeah, we were trying to win”. They didn’t, of course, and both the offense and defense share some blame for that, but they will be getting some major reinforcements on both sides of the ball for the playoffs, including six starters who didn’t play in the finale.