PITTSBURH — Pitt has faced its fair share of top quarterbacks since Pat Narduzzi took over in 2015.
The Panthers have faced Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence at Clemson, Daniel Jones at Duke, Lamar Jackson at Louisville and Mitchell Trubisky at North Carolina, just to name a few.
But perhaps the star collegiate quarterback the Panthers had the most trouble with over the years was former Oklahoma State passer Mason Rudolph. Pitt faced Rudolph and the Cowboys in a two-game series in 2016 in Stillwater, Oklahoma and at Heinz Field in 2017.
In 2016 Rudolph threw for 540 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-38 win against the Panthers, including a 91-yard touchdown to current Steelers wide receiver,James Washington. A year later, Rudolph led the No. 9 Cowboys to a 59-21 win at Heinz Field. Rudolph threw for 497 yards on 23-32 and five touchdowns.
Two years later, Rudolph will be trying to put up those kinds of numbers in his first NFL start for the Steelers on Sunday in San Francisco.
Narduzzi was impressed with Rudolph during his college days and said he has no doubts that he will continue to improve while with the Steelers.
“There’s a reason he’s in the NFL,” Narduzzi said. “He was spectacular at Oklahoma State. He knows how to throw the ball and he doesn’t get flustered with pressure. … I’m glad I don’t have to play him tomorrow.”
With Narduzzi having first-hand experience of seeing Rudolph in action and being able to watch the way he takes command of an offense, he believes that he will fit in well with the way the Steelers want to do things.
“Mason Rudolph isn’t going to have any problems,” Narduzzi said. “[Rudolph] has a chance to go in and take over. Everybody on that team is playing for him and he’ll have a lot of support behind him.”
When talking about who are the best quarterbacks that Narduzzi has faced at Pitt. He put Rudolph right at the top, with former UNC quarterback Trubisky. Both of whom probably still give Pitt fans nightmares.
Rudolph is replacing a franchise icon in Ben Roethlisberger, and many have questioned the Steelers’ ability to compete with the second-year passer at the helm. But Narduzzi is definitely a believer.
“I think a lot of people are going to be shocked,” he said.
Alan Saunders contributed reporting to this story.