CINCINNATI — Mason Rudolph didn’t necessarily see it coming, but he knew his play had not been up to par.
That was his own self-evaluation of the first half plus one drive against the Cincinnati Bengals, as the Steelers had just three points to show for their first six possessions.
But when offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner came over to Rudolph on the sideline and informed him that Devlin Hodges would be taking the next drive, he was not expecting it.
“No I did not,” Rudolph said. “I knew what I expect of myself and this offense. To move the ball and score points coming out of halftime. … “We’ve got to start faster as an offense. That starts with me. I’ve got to make some adjustments, but I think it’s correctible stuff.”
Rudolph finished 8 of 16 for 85 yards with one interception and no touchdowns. That gave him a 39.9 passer rating, his second straight week with a sub-40 mark. He had a 36.3 passer rating after throwing four interceptions against the Browns last Thursday.
Rudolph said that this and the team’s slow start had nothing to do with his bizarre week, after being hit over the head with his own helmet on Thursday and then being accused of using a racial slur on the field in that incident earlier this week.
“Not at all,” he said. “I think I do a good job of shutting that stuff out. Just purely not moving the ball down the field.”
He’s had a lot of stuff to deal with this season. Thrust into the starting lineup after Ben Roethlisberger’s season-ending injury, Rudolph got out to a good start, but a scary concussion against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5 seemed to be a turning point for his season.
Rudolph returned three weeks later, but after posting passer ratings of 124.6 in Week 4 against Cincinnati and 100.2 before being injured against the Ravens, he stayed in the 80’s for the next three games before faltering badly against the Browns and getting pulled in Cincinnati.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said that he was simply looking for a spark by turning to Hodges and neither party seemed to want to get into the messy business of who will start next Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
“I respect it and I want to respect however they want to handle it going forward,” Rudolph said. “That’s a coaching decision. I’m going to respect whatever they want to do. Obviously, I want to play, but that’s a coaching deal. You’ll have to ask Coach Tomlin.”