Rudolph ready if Big Ben out awhile
PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph beat out Josh Dobbs for the backup job during the preseason.
After two regular-season games, the Steelers could be his team for the foreseeable future.
Two-time Super Bowl winner Ben Roethlisberger left Sunday’s 28-26 home loss against Seattle with a right elbow injury. Rudolph said he felt comfortable taking over for Roethlisberger on Sunday and he certainly looked the part. But Rudolph couldn’t help the Steelers avoid their second 0-2 start since 2003.
“You have to be prepared for those situations whenever your number is called,” Rudolph said. “I thought I was ready, and I had a really good feel for our game plan. I had a lot of reps this week, and I didn’t feel like I was unprepared by any means.”
Rudolph, the Steelers’ 2018 third-round pick, started the second half and finished 12 of 19 for 112 yards. He threw the first two touchdowns of his career to tight end Vance McDonald, in addition to an interception that was dropped by Donte Moncrief before it was picked off.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said after the game that Roethlisberger was being evaluated after completing 8 of 15 passes for 75 yards. Roethlisberger flexed and shook his throwing arm on the Steelers’ final drive of the first half, a series that ended with a field goal that gave Pittsburgh a 10-7 halftime lead.
Rudolph is ready to go if Roethlisberger’s injury lingers.
“I am completely confident in myself, being a leader of a team and playing games,” Rudolph said. “If that’s the case, I’m ready to roll.”
Rudolph’s first NFL completion came on a flea flicker, a 45-yarder to JuJu Smith-Schuster, which set up Chris Boswell’s 33-yard field goal, as Pittsburgh trailed, 14-13. Smith-Schuster later passed Hall of Famer Randy Moss to become the youngest player in NFL history to reach 2,500 career receiving yards.
Rudolph threw his first two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, twice answering a pair of Seattle scores. The first was an eight-yard dump off to McDonald, while the second, which set the final, also went to the veteran tight end following a play action.
“I think he’s come a long way since last year,” McDonald said. “If he’s our guy, we’re going to move forward with him.”
Roethlisberger might not be the only starter the Steelers could be missing. Linebacker Vince Williams left in the first quarter (hamstring), while running back James Conner (knee), safety Sean Davis (shoulder) and linebacker Anthony Chickillo (foot) also couldn’t return.
“We lost a number of guys in this game, but that wasn’t the reason we didn’t win this game,” Tomlin said. “We were fully capable with the guys that were on the field. We didn’t make enough plays.”
A key swing came in the four quarter when the Seahawks answered Rudolph’s first touchdown.
A potential third-and-20 from the Seattle 27 turned into a first-and-10 from the Pittsburgh 35. Russell Wilson’s deep pass to WR Tyler Lockett fell incomplete, Seattle challenged for possible pass interference and the play was reversed.
Three plays later, Wilson connected with WR DK Metcalf for a 28-yard touchdown over S Terrell Edmunds, who was flagged for the earlier pass interference call. Tomlin said he disagreed with the earlier penalty.
“I don’t believe any of us have an understanding of what the standards are once those things go to replay,” Tomlin said.
The Steeler defense forced and recovered two fumbles, and also finished with four sacks. That kept the game close early, as Roethlisberger and the offense struggled with 103 total yards, but still led 10-7 at halftime.
Rudolph didn’t look out of place when he entered, but the Steelers couldn’t keep up with Wilson and the Seahawks, whose three second-half touchdowns were the difference.
“I like some of the things (Rudolph) displayed,” Tomlin said. “But we have to find a way to win a football game, and we weren’t able to do that.”