Can Pittsburgh Survive Ben Roethlisberger’s Elbow Injury With Mason Rudolph?

Ben Roethlisberger signed a contract extension for an additional two years at $68 million last April. The Steelers may be regretting that decision now as their 37-year-old franchise quarterback left Sunday’s game in the first half against the Seattle Seahawks with an elbow injury.

Mason Rudolph stepped in to play the second half for the Steelers in Roethlisberger’s absence. Is the season doomed without Roethlisberger, or does Pittsburgh have a shot at bouncing back from its 0-2 start with Rudolph under center?

Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow injury is cause for concern

Last season, Ben Roethlisberger led the NFL in passing yards with 5,129. While setting a new career-high in passing yards, Roethlisberger also set a new career-high in pass attempts as the team was forced to throw more with star running back Le’Veon Bell sitting out the season.

Roethlisberger did all of this while nursing an elbow injury on his throwing arm. On his weekly radio show last season, the veteran quarterback admitted that he was playing through pain last October. “Was just dealing with a little bit of an elbow issue and I had to drop my elbow from a comfort factor,” Roethlisberger said. “When your arm drops a little bit, that can cause the ball to sail.”

The elbow was an issue all year last season as it forced Ben Roethlisberger to alter his practice schedule and throwing motion. So to see him leave Sunday’s game with a non-contact injury is quite alarming given his recent struggles the elbow on his throwing arm. The 37-year-old is set to get an MRI to survey the extent of the damage.

Mason Rudolph played well in relief

Mason Rudolph in his senior year at Oklahoma State
Mason Rudolph in his senior year at Oklahoma State | Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

Mason Rudolph had a strong showing in relief of Big Ben, going 12-for-19 with 112 passing yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. The interception was not Rudolph’s fault either as Donte Moncrief dropped a pass that was thrown right into his chest into the hands of a Seahawks defender.

Rudolph had a productive career in college with the Oklahoma State Cowboys, passing for 13,618 yards and 92 touchdowns with only 26 interceptions during his four years with the program. After passing for 4,904 yards and 37 touchdowns as a senior in 2017, Mason Rudolph was selected in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

This preseason, Rudolph won the backup job from Joshua Dobbs. The Steelers were so confident in Mason Rudolph as Roethlisberger’s backup that they traded Dobbs away to the Jaguars after Nick Foles got injured in Week 1. He appears to be comfortable in this offense, and his performance against Seattle suggests that he should be able to keep the team afloat in Roethlisberger’s absence.

Rudolph is the future

After spending a relatively high draft pick on Rudolph last season and then trading away his competition for the backup role, the Steelers appear to be committed to giving Mason Rudolph a shot at starting quarterback when Ben Roethlisberger’s storied career comes to an end.

It’s too early to tell how serious this injury is. But with last year’s injury issues bleeding into this year’s, it feels like the Mason Rudolph era may get underway sooner rather than later in Pittsburgh.