Steelers rookie QB Mason Rudolph earns game ball after 1st NFL win
The game plan and the protection provided made things easier on Mason Rudolph than they could have been. But the stat line from Rudolph’s first NFL home start was stellar enough that it’s all that will be remembered from what was the rookie quarterback’s first pro victory.
Rudolph went 24 for 28 for 229 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in leading the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 27-3 win against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night at Heinz Field.
“Can’t say enough about Mason,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “We gave him a game ball in there for his first start and win. So, I thought that was appropriate.”
Almost incredibly, the near-perfect game by the 24-year-old, second-year, former third-round pick largely went unnoticed on an evening when the Steelers got their first win of the season and the defense dominated (175 yards against eight sacks).
Even the storyline surrounding the offense was not Rudolph but the use of the wildcat directed by running back Jaylen Samuels. The package took some of the pressure off of Rudolph, as did an offensive line that did not allow a sack nor a quarterback hit (per the NFL’s official stats off the game).
Mason Rudolph said he expected better results from his first NFL start. https://t.co/ueLud0zpex
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Also, just as it did for Rudolph’s first start Sept. 22 at San Francisco, the game plan did not ask him to throw the ball downfield much. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, half of Rudolph’s completions were caught behind the line of scrimmage; just five were more than 5 yards downfield.
Rudolph attempted only three passes to receivers more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. Half of his 28 attempts were to running backs.
“I kind of had more of a philosophy of taking what the defense gives you,” Rudolph said, “and we had our chances to take our shots. Backs were in the spots all week.”
Even if Rudolph didn’t get too much of a chance to show off his arm for deep throws, he did continue to earn the respect of his locker room. Newly-acquired tight end Nick Vannett needed only three practices to note Rudolph’s maniacal work ethic.
“He’s a competitor,” Vannett said.
“I am just so happy he got his first win the NFL, and there’s going to be many more of those — I can promise you that.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .