PITTSBURGH — Mason Rudolph gave the Steelers a nice jolt on Saturday to lead the team to a 34-11 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. But there were a few traits that Rudolph displayed that allowed him to raise the floor and give the team a competent quarterback performance. That is where the team made its hay on Saturday.
His accuracy, especially under pressure, was spotty at times. But this team did not need All-Pro level play from him; they just required competency. This group needed a point guard.
Win From the Pocket
Rudolph did that. He proved one critical thing about NFL quarterback play. If you can win from the pocket and get the ball to where it is supposed to go, more often than not, good things happen. There were maybe two or three times all game. I can point to that Rudolph turned down a ball he should have thrown, but that naturally happens to everyone. Most guys are not perfect, even the all-time greats.
By getting it to the right guy, who is this offense is usually an open guy, the team was able to make plays for him. George Pickens stood out. A few other guys made big-time plays. But Rudolph threw with anticipation and rhythm, keeping this group on schedule.
That allowed him to spread the ball around to everyone he wanted to target. Most of the guys got targets, sans for Pat Freiermuth, who the Bengals took away at all costs after he torched them last time. When you are asked to step into a role like this, that’s the thing you have to do the most.
The other key to winning in the pocket? Rudolph did a nice job of making the right read. His eyes got to the right place and even though he was under duress, Rudolph never made an egregious decision. I recall one play he turned down to Pickens on a third down, but every quarterback has those in their resume.
Rudolph sat in the pocket with decisive eyes and made the correct reads, and that is something that seemed to be the focus for him throughout the week.
“Yeah, I think as much as it’s — as hard as it is to sit and watch for two and a half years, I think you can sort of just go on autopilot mode or try to improve and put yourself — call the play in the huddle, the snap count, you know, try to go through, simulate what you would do if you were in there,” Rudolph said. “I think just when years go by your football IQ improves, and I credit that to our staff and Mike T. We have great meetings each week in the morning where he kind of gives a synopsis from a defensive perspective. I think I just felt good having the whole week of reps. Last time I played found out 12, 24 hours before, so nice to build the confidence through the week.”
If Pittsburgh gets that type of quarterback play for the rest of the season, they will have a chance each week. It’s not perfect. But the team is talented enough where that’s good enough. Rudolph brought out the two exact traits they needed there.
The last thing that Rudolph brought was his confidence. This team needed someone with unwavering confidence in themselves, similar to how Kenny Pickett operates when he is out there, and Rudolph brought that energy. I point to his third-down run in the red zone as a huge point to prove just that. Rudolph went full-on John Elway to get it, which eventually turned seven points. Not every quarterback does that, but the team needed someone who brought that energy to the table.
They fed off the confidence, and Joey Porter Jr. even admitted that it sometimes felt like the team doubted themselves. Rudolph never doubted himself or the team. And he got the rest of the team in all three phases to feed off that like a sparkplug.