In his first start of the season, Pittsburgh Steelers backup quarterback Mason Rudolph completed 30 of 50 pass attempts for 242 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. While it will never be mistaken for a clinic tape, some of the most high-profile plays on which it looked during the live broadcast like he was at fault would later be revealed to have more nuance to that.
The missed connection on a would-be touchdown to Ray-Ray McCloud is one that I took a look at. We’ve also discussed a high pass on third down over the middle of the field to Diontae Johnson on which he stopped his route. These are instances where the targets at least share the blame. And Johnson and Pat Freiermuth both put the ball on the ground in overtime.
These are the exact sorts of things you cannot do when you’re playing a backup quarterback. “As far as everything with Mason, we’ve just got to get him going”, wide receiver James Washington said on Wednesday. “Every ball he throws to us, we’ve just got to make a great attempt on it and just try to get that offense rolling and get him rolling”.
It remains to be seen whether or not Rudolph plays another snap. That will depend upon the health status of Ben Roethlisberger, their starting quarterback, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday. He has to test negative twice at least 24 hours apart and also show no symptoms for 48 hours as a vaccinated individual before he can be activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 List.
Even if they have to go another game with Rudolph at quarterback, however, Washington remains optimistic that they can get the job done—provided that everybody is doing their jobs. “With him in there, I feel like we can win every game”, he said.
Washington was on the receiving end of Rudolph’s lone touchdown pass, his first touchdown of the season, though that connection is far from new. As you probably know by now, they were teammates at Oklahoma State, where Washington caught 226 passes for 4,472 yards and 39 touchdowns, primarily from Rudolph.
“I guess it can” help, Washington said, of his college rapport with Rudolph at quarterback, “but it’s a whole different level now, so we’ve just got to take what we’re given and make [the most of] the opportunities that we’re given”.
Washington has played 301 snaps this season, primarily thanks to injuries to other wide receivers. JuJu Smith-Schuster has been out for most of the year. Chase Claypool has missed two games. Johnson has missed time as well. Washington himself did miss one game with a groin injury, but has dressed for the past four. He played 76 snaps on Sunday.