John Steigerwald: Mason Rudolph not up to job for Steelers
It could have been worse. Actually, it should have been worse.
The Steelers almost got out of San Francisco with a win because the 49ers were determined to give them one. How often does a team commit four turnovers in the first half and win?
The 49ers finished with five turnovers, but at least four of them were gifts that had little to do with the Steelers defense. Fumbled snaps, a pass that bounces off a receiver’s hands for an interception, a receiver going in motion behind the line of scrimmage is hit in the head with a snap.
The 49ers were lucky to be facing a quarterback making his first start. They did more than the Steelers could have asked to make it an easy win.
Mason Rudolph wasn’t up to the job. He didn’t throw a good pass in the first half not counting the ones that were thrown less than 15 feet. He didn’t play well enough to make anybody think the Steelers can salvage the season. Maybe he will do that next week against the Bengals, who are also 0-3, but he’s going to have to play a lot better than he did Sunday.
Is it unfair to expect anything better from a guy making his first start?
Somebody named Gardner Minshew II was 23 for 33 for 213 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions for Jacksonville in his first start last week in a 13-12 loss to Houston. That was after coming off the bench and going 20 for 25 for 275 yards, two touchdowns and an interception the week before.
He’s completed 74% of his passes with five touchdowns, an interception and a 110.0 passer rating in his three games.
Daniel Jones is a rookie. He made his first start Sunday after replacing Eli Manning for the Giants. He went 23 for 36 for 336 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 32-31 win over Tampa Bay.
Kyler Murray of Arizona was 29 for 54 for 308 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in his first game two weeks ago. Of course, he was the first overall pick in this year’s draft, but he is part of a large body of evidence that shows it’s not unfair to expect a good game from a guy making his first start.
Rudolph was a disappointment, and if he had played just a little bit better the Steelers would have won the game.
But let’s not forget the Steelers were 0-2 with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, and let’s admit it would have been a lot easier for Rudolph if he had Antonio Brown running routes for him.
The Steelers offense misses Antonio Brown a lot.
And if Sunday is the best Rudolph can do, this season is going to be a disaster.
• No matter how Rudolph plays or how many games the Steelers win, the trade of a 2020 first-round pick to Miami for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick was a good decision.
Fitzpatrick will almost certainly be a better player for the Steelers next year than whoever they would have taken in the first round, and when you lose your starting quarterback, defense becomes a lot more important.
Fitzpatrick fills a need. Next year is next year. Making the deal was playing to win.
• Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception was voted the greatest play of the NFL’s first 100 years by a panel of 68 media members. That’s not surprising, but what’s pretty amazing is, about a year and a half ago, NHL fans voted Mario Lemieux’s five goals five ways on Dec. 31, 1988, the NHL’s greatest moment.
The greatest moment in two of America’s four major sports happened for Pittsburgh teams and in the city.
And the fact that I was there for both of them is very cool.
I missed Bill Mazeroski’s home run, which has to be in the top three moments in baseball history. Had to settle for watching that one on TV.
John Steigerwald is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.