The Pittsburgh Steelers only had two players attempt a pass all season, with Ben Roethlisberger accounting for 608 of those attempts. Third-year quarterback Mason Rudolph, who is in his second season as the backup, attempted four passes over the course of the first 15 games of the year.
With Roethlisberger sitting out the regular season finale in order to rest for the postseason, head coach Mike Tomlin took the opportunity to get a little creative. Joshua Dobbs dressed as Rudolph’s backup for the game, the first time he had been active all year, and got on the field for several snaps as a read-option quarterback.
With Maurkice Pouncey at center also resting, it was first-year J.C. Hassenauer who was responsible for snapping the ball back to both of them. Making his fourth start of the season (and third at center), now with around 300 snaps played, it was up to him to manage the two young quarterbacks, but he came away pleased with the work of both.
“I thought his performance the whole game was great. I was so proud of him the way he stepped up this week”, he said of Rudolph. “He led our team, he set the tempo, he was a leader. I was really proud of Mason for that. Even Dobbs, too. Dobbs came in the huddle, he commanded the huddle the way a quarterback’s supposed to. I thought both of them did an excellent job. I was very proud of both of them”.
Rudolph, who started eight games last season, of course, while Roethlisberger was injured, completed 22 of 39 pass attempts on the day. Despite his low completion percentage, he threw for over 300 yards and more than eight yards per attempt, thanks to his ability to connect on a number of deep balls. He also threw two touchdowns against one interception.
As for Dobbs, he recorded two runs for 20 yards. He also completed four of five ‘passes’, which were really pitches, though for just a total of two net yards. One was a successful play by rookie running back Anthony McFarland to convert on third down.
As for Hassenauer, my initial impression is that he did okay, perhaps his best game so far on what has been a relatively low bar. After they let go of Stefen Wisniewski, he was left as the only backup lineman with meaningful experience at center.