PITTSBURGH – Sitting on the podium within the Pittsburgh Steelers’ press convention room at Acrisure Stadium, quarterback Mason Rudolph admitted he let his thoughts wander to the what-ifs.
What if Saturday was one among his final probabilities to show he might make it as an NFL quarterback? After six rollercoaster seasons with simply 18 begins – and simply two prior to now three years – did he actually belong within the league?
With 290 passing yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions within the Steelers’ resounding 34-11 victory in opposition to the Cincinnati Bengals – the staff’s first win by a couple of rating this yr – Rudolph proved himself and a stadium of greater than 66,000 spectators that he can play successful soccer within the NFL.
“You have got confidence in your self as a participant,” Rudolph mentioned, “however you form of assume, ‘Am I going to get into the business actual property enterprise subsequent yr or am I going to play quarterback?’”
Rudolph, who has been inactive in all however three video games this season, made essentially the most from the leap in his first begin since Week 10 of the 2021 season. On the Steelers’ second play of the sport, Rudolph linked with broad receiver George Pickens with a brief throw, and Pickens took the ball 86 yards to the home for the Steelers’ longest landing since Ben Roethlisberger hit JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 97-yard. landing in week 12 of the 2018 season.
“A quick begin, whether or not you are in highschool, faculty or professional, it makes a distinction, and particularly being at this venue at house, we get the gang concerned, to have somebody like George go early and run his on catching means, that is second to none,” Rudolph mentioned. “So it was a fairly cool sight once I tried to chase him from behind.”
Aided by the 86-yard landing, Rudolph threw for 130 yards within the first quarter, essentially the most by a Steelers quarterback in any quarter since Kenny Pickett threw for 138 yards within the 4th quarter in opposition to the Rams in Week 7.
Rudolph orchestrated two extra landing drives that half and helped the Steelers shut the second quarter with a subject aim when he hit Pickens for a 44-yard completion on third and lengthy. Pickens made a tapping seize to maintain the drive going, stopping the Bengals from getting the ball in time to work earlier than halftime. The throw traveled 44 air yards, making it the longest throw of the season by a Steelers quarterback – and the longest throw by a Steelers quarterback since Rudolph linked with Diontae Johnson on a cross in Week 17 of coated 47 air yards throughout the match. Season 2020.
Within the third quarter, Rudolph discovered Pickens once more, this time for a 66-yard landing. Three of the duo’s connections went for at the least 40 yards, marking the primary time since Rudolph’s begin in opposition to the Browns in 2020 that the Steelers’ offense has had at the least three performs of 40 yards or extra. Within the earlier 5 video games, the Steelers had solely two complete performs that coated at the least 40 yards.
“Coach (Mike Tomlin) talked about it earlier this week that we wanted to have the ability to make these pictures and let our loopy cling on the market,” heart Mason Cole mentioned. “There’s simply nothing to lose. Good to see the success down there, and good to see us finishing these pictures. It modified the sport for us.”
With Rudolph at quarterback, the Steelers additionally scored essentially the most factors in a recreation since 2021 and had their highest yards per play common (6.8) since 2018.
“He was Mason,” Tomlin mentioned. “We talked about it at first of the week. He believes in himself. He’s aggressive in his enjoying type and I assumed he did very properly with out exhibiting a lot rust for somebody who clearly hasn’t performed a lot.” .”
As he raced throughout the sector to rejoice together with his teammates after the 66-yard landing, Rudolph appeared up into the gang and located his mother and father. His father final noticed him play in individual in 2021, when he received a red-eye on quick discover watching his son get the beginning when Ben Roethlisberger went to order/COVID-19 the night time earlier than the sport. His mom, in the meantime, final cheered him on in individual throughout the ultimate common season recreation of the 2020 season.
Not solely did his household watch him play and win Saturday, additionally they heard the gang chant Rudolph’s identify all night time, together with 4 instances within the fourth quarter. As soon as maligned for his inconsistent play and tumultuous 2019 season, Rudolph was celebrated by a crowd that has had little purpose to be excited currently.
“We’re all human,” Rudolph mentioned. “I would be mendacity if I mentioned I did not take pleasure in it or I did not prefer it, but it surely’s a week-to-week competitors. I have been on the opposite facet, so attempt to block it out.” get on the market and play the sport. … We’ve got a bunch of passionate followers, and what a pleasure to play in entrance of them tonight, the final house recreation whereas my household was on the town. It was superb. “
Tomlin mentioned it was too early to ask concerning the beginning quarterback for the Week 17 recreation in opposition to the Seattle Seahawks, however Rudolph made a powerful case for retaining the job for an additional week as Kenny Pickett recovers from TightRope surgical procedure following a excessive sprain of the best ankle.
“Pay attention, I am on this recreation to play,” Rudolph mentioned, asking if he had earned one other begin. ‘I’d like to play, however I can not management that. I will determine the marching orders.’
After the sport, defensive captain Cameron Heyward gave Rudolph the sport ball.
“Mason was prepared,” Heyward mentioned. “We have misplaced three video games in a row. Personally, I felt like with all the pieces happening, Mason attacked. There was no method to sit again and let issues occur. He went out and attacked the sport. You noticed a number of instances the place third-and-1 threw it deep and gave guys an opportunity.”
So was beating the Bengals and getting his first recreation ball the very best Christmas current he ever obtained?
“I do not know,” Rudolph mentioned, grinning. “I received a treehouse once I was 12, which was fairly cool, however that is positively up there.”
Analysis from ESPN Stats & Info was used for this report.