Steelers QB Mason Rudolph says concussion symptoms are long gone, ‘ready to play’
Just like what happened the last time a Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback returned to action after missing a start because of a concussion, the Steelers are two-touchdown home favorites.
Of course, when Ben Roethlisberger came back to face the Oakland Raiders on Dec. 6, 2009, there wasn’t even an NFL-mandated concussion protocol.
The Steelers stunningly lost that game, 27-24, but it wasn’t because their two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback was still showing the affects of a concussion — or even of the rust that caused him to sit out the prior game.
Mason Rudolph got knocked out by Earl Thomas…. hopefully it is not serious 🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/QUO62p8lCB
— Abdul Memon (@abdulamemon) October 6, 2019
Mason Rudolph and the Steelers insist the aftermath of him absorbing a brutal hit by the Baltimore Ravens’ Earl Thomas on Oct. 6 won’t play any part in Monday’s game against the winless Miami Dolphins, either.
“From going through that first full practice with the (starters), I don’t think I’ve missed much,” Rudolph said. “I don’t think I’ve skipped a beat. I think we’re really starting to gel well as an offense, and I’m looking forward to Monday.”
In the 2009 loss to the Raiders, Roethlisberger went 18 for 24 for 278 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. It was the defense that let the Steelers down that day (the Bruce Gradkowski-led Raiders scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns).
Kevin Gorman: Steelers hope Mason Rudolph can make more memorable plays like the one he doesn't remember
(Via TribLive) https://t.co/xWrZTS3PUU
— Kevin Gorman (@KGorman_Trib) October 21, 2019
The fear with Rudolph is, perhaps, four-fold: Will his mental faculties keep him as sharp as possible? Will the Steelers feel compelled to adjust their gameplan to shield Rudolph as much as possible? Will the time off (counting the bye week, it will be 22 days between game reps for Rudolph) allow some rust to accumulate? And, will Rudolph be gun shy in the pocket, anxious to not get hit again?
To the latter, Rudolph laughs it off with an emphatic, “No.”
“My dad’s a linebacker, my brother’s a defensive end – a lot of times I wish I could have more contact in the game because I truly love it,” Rudolph said. “That’s kind of the backyard player that I am. So I’m not going to be gun shy at all. If anything, I’ll be seeking it out, contact, earlier in the game to get the rust back and know what it feels like to get hit.”
Joe Haden can empathize. His 2015 concussion cost him eight games. But as a defensive player he had a significant advantage in his return to action.
“Unlike a quarterback, we can hit in practice,” Haden said this week. “So just being able to run into people like that, you get a little more comfortable. Because some of it is just mental, too.”
The mental part of Paxton Lynch’s game was affected by a concussion in August.
“I think you feel the effects; your mind doesn’t feel as sharp as it (usually) is,” Lynch, now the Steelers’ No. 3 QB, said this week. “But every concussion is different.”
Lynch said he felt he had to play, though, because he was in a fight for the job as the Seattle Seahawks’ No. 2. Lynch, who was knocked out by a hit from Minnesota’s Holton Hill during a Week 2 preseason game, sat out the next game but returned for the preseason finale.
It wasn’t pretty: Lynch went 1 for 7 for 4 yards and a sack, and he was cut two days later. Lynch, though, said this week it wasn’t the concussion that held him back.
The Steelers playcallers and blockers will do their best to protect their quarterback, regardless of his concussion status.
“Just the general health of our quarterback is very important to us,” offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said.
“It’s just the nature of the position,” guard David DeCastro said on behalf of the linemen, “that you always have pressure on yourself to protect the guys.”
Although he did not take reps with the starters in the week after being concussed, Rudolph did not miss a practice throughout his recovery. Truth be told, if this was 2009 — pre-concussion protocol — Rudolph probably would have played Oct. 13 at Los Angeles.
As such, Rudolph said he has felt comfortable enough to play for a long time. And come Monday, the concussion won’t have any affect on his game against the Dolphins.
“It’s over now,” Rudolph said of his concussion experience. “It’s behind me. I’m ready to play football.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .