Mason Rudolph earns respect of Steelers teammates with play in NFL debut
At 0-2 and with their franchise quarterback injured, the Pittsburgh Steelers appear to be in big trouble.
But the players feel “really” comfortable — times three — with Ben Roethlisberger’s replacement, Mason Rudolph.
“Mason,” tight end Vance McDonald said after Sunday’s game, “did a really, really, really good job today.”
Albeit in a 28-26 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Rudolph had two touchdown passes in completing 12 of 19 passes in his NFL debut.
“I was really, really, really impressed,” guard David DeCastro said. “He did well (Sunday).”
With the status of Roethlisberger unclear after he left Sunday’s game because of an elbow injury, Rudolph might be promoted from quarterback of the future to starting quarterback.
He already earned a recent promotion, zooming past Josh Dobbs into the role as the Steelers No. 2 during an impressive preseason. The trade of Dobbs to Jacksonville last week further cemented his role.
Few, though, could have expected Rudolph would be needed so quickly. Nor that he would look so composed and ready.
“You have to be prepared for those situations whenever your number is called,” Rudolph said. “I thought I was ready. I had a really good feel for our gameplan and what we worked on all week. … I didn’t feel like I was unprepared in any means.”
Rudolph bemoaned the lack of practice reps he got as a rookie, a function of NFL practice restrictions that typically limit two quarterbacks to getting the vast majority of the practice time. That made Rudolph embrace the first practice of this past week all the more as Roethlisberger took a “veteran day off,” leaving Rudolph with the majority of the reps.
It showed. Teammates marveled at Rudolph’s attention to detail, grasp of the playbook and demeanor in commanding a huddle at age 24 and with no prior regular-season experience.
“He handled himself really well,” DeCastro said. “Really proud of him, how he came in ready to go. He knew the playbook, had a big command, and he mixed some of the cadences, too. That was impressive.”
Kevin Gorman's Take 5: Steelers rally behind Mason Rudolph but can't stop Seahawks
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Tomlin said he was impressed with Rudolph’s “communication” and “grit.”
“Mason is capable,” Tomlin said. “He’s been a part of this thing. He’s the backup quarterback. We’re capable of functioning in a very normal manner when he’s in there.”
There was no obvious adjustment in the style of offense or playcalling after Rudolph entered the game.
“He’s thrown the ball and made his reads, and he’s very deliberate about that,” McDonald said. “It’s something we can look forward to on offense. I think him and (offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner) have a great connection.
“He’s come a long way since last year. If he’s our guy, he’s our guy. We’ve got to move forward with him.”
Rudolph said he didn’t feel any extra pressure to have a presence or display an air of confidence while calling plays or running the huddle. In his mind, he’d long ago earned the respect of his veteran teammates by way of his work ethic and on-field conduct.
“I am completely confident in myself,” Rudolph said, “(in) being a leader of a team and playing games. That’s what it all comes down too.”
Enough so that he can perform while making his first NFL start this coming weekend, if needed?
“If that’s the case,” Rudolph said, “I’m ready to roll.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .