I don't know if anyone expected the showcase we just witnessed from Mason Rudolph in the first two quarters of Week 16. With the ankle injury to Kenny Pickett and with Mitch Trubisky struggling this year, the Pittsburgh Steelers turned to Rudolph for his first start since 2021.
Nobody knew how things were going to go with the third-string quarterback, but there's no question Rudolph was put in a tight spot. After the Steelers lost three straight games and fell to 7-7 on the season, a loss could have ended any hope of making the playoffs this year. Surprisingly, Rudolph answered the call.
Right from the gate, the third-string quarterback came out swinging. On his very first pass attempt, Rudolph fired a deep post in stride to George Pickens, and the talented second-year receiver took care of the rest -- taking the football to the house for an 86-yard touchdown reception.
This monstrous play got the home crowd on their feet during Pittsburgh's final game at Acrisure Stadium in 2023. But his impressive run didn't end there.
Mason Rudolph greatly exceeds expectations vs. Bengals
Rudolph proceeded to march his team down the field -- punching in touchdowns on three of his first four possessions. He even scrambled to move the chains on a crucial 3rd and 6 despite knowing he was going to take a big shot.
With his back against the wall and nothing to lose, Mason Rudolph has played like this is the last shot he will ever get in this league, and we are loving every moment of it.
Admittedly, things weren't perfect. Rudolph underthrew speedster Calvin Austin III in the first half on a play that undoubtedly would have gone for a touchdown. He was also off the mark on a few passes underneath. However, the veteran quarterback has done significantly more than anyone anticipated in his first start in two years.
Rudolph finished the first half completing 12 of 19 passes for 193 yards (10.2 yards per attempt) and a touchdown, per ESPN box score stats. If the game ended at halftime against the Bengals, his 114.6 passer rating would be the best that we have seen from a Steelers quarterback who started and finished the game since Ben Roethlisberger in Week 5 of 2021.
If Mason Rudolph keeps up like this, it could give Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers a very interesting decision when Kenny Pickett is healthy and ready to go. This is the offensive performance every Steelers fan has been waiting for, and we can't get enough of it. Let's hope it keeps up.