The Pittsburgh Steelers are entering uncharted territory on Sunday when the team travels to the west coast to play the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3. No, it isn’t as if they haven’t been without Ben Roethlisberger before, but never has he been ruled out for the remainder of the season — in Week 2.
With 14 games left on the schedule, it is Mason Rudolph’s team now, and many fans are both concerned and oddly excited about seeing what this “new” Steelers team will look like. But the fan’s perspective is one thing, Rudolph’s teammates’ perspective is a different story altogether.
If you recall, in 2004 when Tommy Maddox left the Week 2 game vs. the Baltimore Ravens with an elbow injury, it was Alan Faneca who politely said going into Week 3 with an inexperienced rookie was hardly ideal.
While I’m sure many of the current Steelers feel the same way, they are publicly more supportive of Rudolph than Faneca was of Roethlisberger at the time. Guard Ramon Foster told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN about Rudolph’s work ethic, and labeled him as a “mad man”.
“He wants this,” Foster told Fowler.
Foster wasn’t the only lineman who is open to the possibility of Rudolph keeping the ship afloat in Roethlisberger’s absence.
“We like our chances,” David DeCastro said. “He’s a guy who cares a lot. That means a lot in this league.”
So, what makes this team so confident in Rudolph? Are they just blowing smoke, or is there truth behind these words? One area Rudolph has never lacked is with self-confidence. He believes in himself, and others pick up on that.
“I am completely confident in myself, being a leader of a team, and playing games,” Rudolph said. “That’s what it all comes down to. If that’s the case, I’m ready to roll.”
The Steelers fan base hopes Rudolph is ready to roll, and in a hurry as the team now prepares for the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3. But if there is one player who might be extremely excited to have Rudolph under center, it would be Vance McDonald. It was McDonald who Rudolph hit twice for touchdowns in Week 2, and might become Rudolph’s safety blanket the way Heath Miller was for Roethlisberger throughout his career.
“He is going to throw the ball and make his reads,” McDonald said. “I think he is very deliberate about that and that is something we can look forward to on offense.”
This all sounds well and good, but it will all come down to execution. Can the Steelers run the ball, convert on third downs and defensively keep points off the board to keep Rudolph and the offense in the game? This was the equation which was successful for Roethlisberger as a rookie, and will need to be duplicated in Rudolph’s first stint as a starter.
Either way, the Steelers seem to be excited about what they have going for them this Sunday, and beyond, in Rudolph.