Mike Tomlin: We expect Mason Rudolph to play winning football for us

NFL: NOV 14 Lions at Steelers
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Mason Rudolph has been with the Steelers since the franchise picked him in the third round of the 2018 draft.

He was unexpectedly pressed into duty when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, but was fairly unimpressive in Pittsburgh’s 16-16 tie with Detroit. Rudolph finished the game 30-of-50 passing for 242 yards with a touchdown and an interception in soggy conditions at Heinz Field.

Still, head coach Mike Tomlin was mainly complimentary of Rudolph’s performance in his Tuesday press conference.

He did a good job articulating the offense, communicating with guys,” Tomlin said, via Teresa Varley of the Steelers website. “The pace in which we desired to work he was able to uphold. We worked fast some, we utilized cadence as a weapon. He is central to that. We got some penalties and got a free five yards and were able to attack them downfield. His use of pace, his ability to communicate, not only in game but between series, and express likes and dislikes and articulate what he saw was acceptable. His reads and distribution of the football was largely what we wanted. He stretched the ball down the field at times and gave us an opportunity to make them not only defend the field horizontally, but vertically.

“If I could be critical of him in any way, I thought he could have been better from a pinpoint accuracy standpoint in some instances, to set up run after and putting the ball in an ideal circumstance so a guy in the flat can win that flat confrontation.”

Tomlin also noted that at this point, Rudolph has extensive experience playing for Pittsburgh over the last few years. He started eight games in 2019 and another last year.

“This is not the first rodeo for him. It’s not the first rodeo for him with us,” Tomlin said. “I don’t think any of us were surprised by the things that he was able to do for us. As a matter of fact, we expected it. I know he expected it. I think that was his 10th start for us now. We expect that guy to play winning football for us.”

Though Roethlisberger is vaccinated and Tomlin said the Steelers would “leave the light on” for the starting QB, there’s a good chance Rudolph could start a second consecutive game for Pittsburgh this week. That would come against the Chargers on Sunday Night Football.

With a week of practice taking starters’ reps and playing in Southern California’s controlled conditions, Rudolph should look better in Week 11. But given what he’s already put on the field, the Steelers likely need a better succession plan for life after Roethlisberger.