How will Steelers offense look if Mason Rudolph is forced to play vs Bengals?

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph (2). Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph (2). Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

Ben Roethlisberger recently showed up on Pittsburgh’s injury report. Here’s what we could expect from the Steelers offense if Mason Rudolph is forced to play. 

Injury news following the loss to the Las Vegas Raiders has gone from bad to worse. After losing Tyson Alualu to IR with a fractured ankle that will likely end his 2021 season, a few other names popped up on the injury report this week that we were not expecting to see.

Joining the list of banded-up players heading into Week 3 are edge defender Alex Highsmith and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. These two join a group of noteworthy players that already includes T.J. Watt, Joe Haden, Devin Bush, and Stephon Tuitt (who has been on IR since the start of the regular season).

With so many injuries on the roster, many are wondering if the Steelers won’t just try to bite the bullet and rest their ailing star players this week. While we don’t know the severity of Ben Roethlisberger’s left pectoral strain, his status for the Week 3 home game against the Bengals seems to be up in the air at this point.

If Big Ben doesn’t play, what does that mean for the Steelers offense?

Can Mason Rudolph lead the Steelers to victory if Ben can’t go?

Ben Roethlisberger is no stranger to injuries, as he has been plagued with them throughout his 18-year career. Oftentimes, the big-bodied quarterback will just play through them – and he usually performs pretty well when he does. However, with an offensive line that is really struggling right now and potentially missing Diontae Johnson with a knee injury, the Steelers may think twice about feeding Ben to the wolves this week.

Mason Rudolph hasn’t played in a regular-season game since Week 17 of last year against the Cleveland Browns. However, this was arguably the best game of his NFL career. Despite a costly interception, Rudolph showed the willingness to drive the ball down the field and made some really big plays.

Roethlisberger hasn’t exactly been stellar to start the 2021 season. While Rudolph isn’t a mobile quarterback, he has a few things going for him that Ben currently does not: he’s young and healthy. This could go a long way for a quarterback trying to show why the Steelers should trust him moving forward.

The Bengals defense has been better than most could have expected through the first two weeks of the season, but this is a very small sample size. If the Steelers do indeed decide to rest Roethlisberger, this likely means that other important players like Watt and Haden will also sit this contest out.

I wouldn’t put it past Rudolph to have an impressive showing against Cincinnati if his number is called. He knows how much is riding on this game, and Roethlisberger hasn’t been great to begin the season. Perhaps he can even get some controversy rolling (though we all know this is Ben’s team).

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Mike Tomlin knows that losing one early-season game to the Bengals isn’t going to be the end of the road, and he could choose to live to fight another day. In order for the Steelers to have a chance in the playoffs, they must be a healthy team with a healthy quarterback. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rudolph was given the start this week out of precautionary measures.