Although the hope and expectation is that he will not be on the field today, the reality is that the prior performance of third-year quarterback Mason Rudolph in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ regular season finale does in some ways bear relevance to what the team might do today.
After all, they are playing the same opponent in the Cleveland Browns, albeit under different circumstances and in a different venue. But the game plan that they had in the finale, which involved exploiting the Browns’ deplete cornerback position by pushing the ball down the field, will be as relevant to Ben Roethlisberger as it is to Rudolph.
In his only extended action of the 2020 season since he started eight games the previous year, Rudolph put up over 300 yards for the first time in his career against Cleveland and threw for two touchdowns as well nearly bringing his team back from being down 15 points in the second half.
Granted, one of the big reasons they fell behind in that way was because of a poor-decision interception that he had on third down in the third quarter. But the way that he responded to that instance is one of the reasons that head coach Mike Tomlin was so pleased about the young quarterback’s performance, as he discussed on The Mike Tomlin Show in recapping Rudolph’s play.
It’s still gritty. And it’s gritty because of the way that he performed in the face of adversity. The kitchen got hot after the interception. The interception, we were down I think 24-9. I didn’t see him cower in any way. I thought he was his best self. I thought he was a good sideline communicator. I thought he had opinions about plays and so forth and expressed it in a good way. I thought he did a good job of leading and communicating with his guys, and his performance speaks for itself. His deep ball accuracy and the calculated chances that he took to put us back in play, was really gritty, and really, that’s why I chose those words. It’s reflective of his entire performance, but specifically in the moments where it was starting to get away from us, after the interception, I liked his response to those circumstances.
Like I said at the top, this might not be relevant to today’s game, but it is something that Tomlin just talked about, and it could still potentially be relevant for the franchise’s future. For starters, he’s the only quarterback on the roster outside of Roethlisberger who is still under contract for the 2021 season.
A 2018 third-round pick, Rudolph was viewed by the organization as a quarterback with first-round talent in whom they saw a player that could be developed. He got extended playing time last year due to Roethlisberger’s injury, and over 10 games (eight starts), he completed 176 of 283 pass attempts for 1765 yards and 13 touchdowns to nine interceptions.