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Steelers Analysis

3 Things Mason Rudolph Must Do against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday



Steelers QB Mason Rudolph
Steelers QB Mason Rudolph works at practice, Dec. 28, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Mike Tomlin named Mason Rudolph as the starting quarterback on Friday, meaning that he will get his second straight start against a Seahawks team that is surging. But what does he need to do to make sure that his success continues? Through asking around, here are three things that Rudolph can do to maintain his level of success.

Watch the Hook from the Seattle Defense

The Seahawks have recently relied more upon their safeties, Julian Love and Quandre Diggs, to limit their explosive plays. In the last two weeks, the team has not allowed a reception of over 20 yards, and it’s largely due to the tweaks Pete Carroll has made to their secondary, specifically in aiding their linebackers.

“Really impressed with their two safeties. I mean, (Quandre) Diggs and (Julian) Love, I mean, we have to make sure they have great vision and vision to break,” quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan said. “And so, we have to make sure we’re on time, and we’re not taking too many hitches or anything else.”

The Seahawks do let their safeties play aggressively while switching in match concepts to not put their linebackers in tough spots. They run mostly out of Cover 3, Quarters, Cover 6 looks. Allen Robinson II revealed just how they play the hook zones so the quick game does not kill them.

“They have different nuances to their single-high. Sometimes, they play more hook (zone) and bring a safety down to take away any kind of speed and different things like that. They take away the quick game,” Robinson said. “They have their safeties coming up more and being involved in certain things.”

That means those middle hook defenders will play aggressively and Mason Rudolph better be prepared for that. Love and Diggs are both ballhawks. Without Jordyn Brooks, it makes things a bit easier since the Steelers could exploit some matchups in the middle of the field. But don’t expect a ton of hitches, and slants better be thrown with anticipation.

Anticipate the Seattle Defensive Changes

The Steelers have tried to anticipate changes in scheme this year, but have been caught off guard before. For one, the Colts, who run mainly Cover 3, stifled them with different Cover 2 looks while mixing in those Cover 3 looks. And this team has not played well against Cover 3 looks all year, regardless of quarterback. But Rudolph did well against the Bengals in single-high coverages, trusting George Pickens to make big plays and take advantage of those. The Bengals took away

The Seahawks, a base Cover 3 team, will try to take away some of the throws to the outside for the Steelers, who ran plenty of deep balls to the outside and speedouts to work off that. But Rudolph is expecting that switch, especially after the Bengals switched from Cover 2 in the first matchup to a heavy middle-of-the-field closed gameplan.

“Outside the numbers? Yes, I agree. I mean Pat killed him inside had had a great game and since he game one and they were very hyper-concerned about Deontay and George on the outside and so Pat played and then a few weeks later the opposite happened,” Mason Rudolph said. “So yes, I think it’s reasonable to expect maybe Seattle to obviously be more aware of the outside, but we’re going to play our game and I think we do a good job of adjusting. We did a good job Saturday of adjusting in game and little tweaks, little route changes, adding a play here and there and just taking what the defense gives you.”

This goes back to the hook stuff. If the Seahawks do come out to take away speed outs and other routes, Rudolph needs to be ready to rip seam balls and other throws to the flat where he might have to go through multiple progressions. He does that, and the Steelers can move the ball, and it will open up opportunities for Pickens, Diontae Johnson, and others down the field.

Find the Linebackers

With no Brooks, Bobby Wagner and Devin Bush will likely start. If they play in their big nickel personnel, so will Jamal Adams, who is basically a WILL linebacker in that system. But without Brooks, asking these linebackers to go in coverage is a tough ask in the system. The Steelers could exploit this, though Robinson pointed me to one adjustment they have made recently at that spot.

“Those safeties are having more concepts run to them,” Robinson said. “They aren’t having those linebackers wheel back and instead they will have a safety catch it from depth.”

In other words, those linebackers aren’t carrying guys to depth much anymore. They are passing it off to safeties, limiting explosives. That makes it a bit tougher since Carroll will be cognizant of that. But running backs and tight ends have sometimes had success against the Seahawk linebackers. Those concepts to the safeties have allowed the linebackers to play more forward, but they still get matched up against those tight ends and running backs, particularly up the seam and in the flat. It just means Mason Rudolph has to take what is given to him at times, and be willing to trust guys like Pat Freiermuth, Connor Heyward, and Darnell Washington in the middle of the field. I would also expect this to be a big Jaylen Warren game.