In the event that Mason Rudolph actually accomplishes his objective of turning into a full-time beginning quarterback in the NFL, he surely will confront games with more on the line than he did Sunday in Cleveland.
Yet, it’s what Rudolph did during the high-stakes minutes in a low-stakes game that are so reassuring for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Rudolph was generally at his best during “possession downs” (as mentor Mike Tomlin likes to call third-and fourth-down snaps), and he dominated during the subsequent half while coming up a 2-point change shy of leading the Steelers back from a 15-point shortage in a 24-22 misfortune toward the Browns.
“I thought his performance the whole game was great,” center J.C. Hassenauer said. “I was so proud of him, the way he stepped up this week. He led our team. He set the tempo. He was a leader.”
At no time was Rudolph’s leadership more apparent than in the higher-pressure circumstances of third-and fourth-and-long. On snaps of third-or fourth-and-10 or more, Rudolph was 8 for 10 for 140 yards with two scores.
One of those deficiencies on third-and-10 was followed quickly by a 28-yard score pass on fourth-and-10. Rudolph also finished a 26-yard pass on third-and-9 and a 9-yard pass on third-and-8.
“I think I did that well today,” Rudolph said of his play on third- or fourth-and-long.
“Really proud of the way those (receivers) played today for me (and) for our offense, and I’ve got to make a better throw there on the 2-point play to send us into OT.”
Rudolph’s miss high to Chase Claypool on a transformation pass with 1 minute, 26 seconds left was one of the few times he was askew in a grip second Sunday.
Rudolph had a 97.7 rating and 9.0 yards per endeavor in the subsequent half and was 7 for 14 with 125 yards and two scores in the final quarter.
“I was encouraged we got back into the game,” Rudolph said.
With the Steelers choosing for rest some veteran starters since they were secured in a No. 2 or 3 season finisher seed, Rudolph began instead of establishment QB Ben Roethlisberger. At 38 and falling off elbow a medical procedure, Roethlisberger’s arm strength and capacity (and additionally ability) to toss downfield has been an argument all through the last piece of the period.
Roethlisberger is 31st in the NFL in yards per endeavor at 6.3. Rudolph’s imprint here against the Browns was 8.1, better than any of Roethlisberger’s 15 beginnings this season. For setting, Patrick Mahomes is averaging 8.1 yards per endeavor this season.
In general, Rudolph finished 22 of 39 passes for 315 yards, two scores and one capture. He finished passes of 47 and 41 yards to Diontae Johnson and a 41-yard pass to Claypool.
Those three culminations of at least 40 yards are one short of what Roethlisberger delivered the entire season.
“We tried to take as many shots as we could,” Rudolph said.
The victories on third down and on profound tosses restricted something that has tormented the Steelers the entire season: short drives. Five of Sunday’s last six belongings created focuses and went 52 or more yards. The Steelers punted just multiple times, their least in a game since October. The Steelers drove the NFL in three-and-outs with 47 yet had just a single Sunday.
All under the direction of Rudolph.
“I don’t know that I was surprised by it,” Tomlin said. “It was reasonable to expect improvement in his play. This guy has been working extremely hard really for 12 calendar months.
“We anticipated him being better, and he was.”