The Pittsburgh Steelers are still awaiting word on whether or not they will have their starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, available to them on Sunday night when they visit the Los Angeles Chargers. The 18-year veteran is in the COVID-19 protocol after testing positive on Saturday, missing the team’s last game.
Backup Mason Rudolph started, and ended up throwing 70 passes across regulation and a full 10-minute overtime period, drawing even with the Detroit Lions, 16-16. Though he only learned the night before that he would be starting—and really, that it was even a possibility—he gave a frank assessment of his own performance.
“There was a lot to take in. Obviously, not good enough to win, especially in regulation. I thought there were some throws that I missed”, he told reporters earlier today following practice. “But I was proud of the way that we battled back, and put ourselves in position to win the game a couple times in their territory, and had the ball roll not our way and had a couple of costly turnovers”.
In terms of ‘battling back’, the Steelers did hold leads for most of the first half, though the Lions took control of the game, tying the score by halftime and then going up by six points—courtesy of a missed field goal—early in the third quarter.
The offense, however, could only ultimately muster a pair of field goals in the final 27 minutes in response, among three field goals in total. Two of them were in the red zone, within 25 yards, speaking to their red-zone failures, going 1-for-3 in such excursions.
It’s a virtual inevitability that you’re going to want to have some throws back if you’re putting the ball in the air 50 times, but there were certainly a number of moments that did not click for the Steelers’ passing game. A lot of it was on Rudolph, but he was also let down by his supporting cast on several occasions, which, at times, still made it appear that the burden was solely on him, when it was often at least shared blame, if not outright on the receiver.
But he is fair in his self-assessment that his play was not good enough to win. If he had played better, yes, they win the game. There were numerous opportunities of which he failed to take advantage. Would he be able to do so with a full week of practice, rather than cramming the night before?
The Steelers still have a couple of days to get Roethlisberger back, and of course, realistically, a veteran like him doesn’t need to practice in order to be able to play. Rudolph confirmed that he is in the meetings and working with offensive coordinator Matt Canada and quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan to prepare in the event that he is able to go.