Once you step on the football field, there’s no way to avoid contact. Even with modern rules designed to protect star players, the NFL is built upon big hits. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph knows that first-hand, and can’t wait to get back into the action.
In Week 5, Rudolph took a brutal hit from Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas, suffering a concussion. When the quarterback makes his return tonight, though, he won’t be gunshy. He’ll actually be hunting for physical contact.
Mason Rudolph’s scary injury
Mason Rudolph started the season at the Steelers’ back-up, sitting behind Ben Roethlisberger on the depth chart. After Big Ben suffered an elbow injury in Week 2, though, Rudolph was pressed into action and finished the game against Seattle.
Rudolph remained under center for the next game, struggling through a close loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Things seemed to click in Week 4, however. The young quarterback completed 24 of 28 passes against the Cincinnati Bengals, throwing for 229 yards and two touchdowns. Things were still looking good against the Ravens until Rudolph absorbed a massive hit.
After taking a high hit from Thomas, Rudolph fell motionless to the ground. His teammates frantically waved for medical help as their quarterback laid on the turf. Trainers unscrewed the quarterback’s facemask and helped him off the field. Rudolph unsurprisingly entered NFL concussion protocol.
Rudolph’s return to NFL action
After missing the Steeler’s Week 6 win over the San Diego Chargers and working through the team’s bye week, Mason Rudolph looks ready to return tonight. While there are obviously some concerns about rustiness, the quarterback insists that he’s prepared.
“From going through that first full practice with the (starters), I don’t think I’ve missed much,” Rudolph said. “I don’t think I’ve skipped a beat. I think we’re really starting to gel well as an offense, and I’m looking forward to Monday.”
Beyond his physical preparation, there are understandable questions about Rudolph’s mental readiness. While no one would ever accuse an NFL player of fearing physical contact, they’re only human. After suffering a concussion the last time he stepped on the field, Rudolph could have to clear a mental hurdle to believe that he can take a hit again.
The quarterback insists that isn’t the case, though. If anything, he’s welcoming that first bit of physical contact. “My dad’s a linebacker, my brother’s a defensive end – a lot of times I wish I could have more contact in the game because I truly love it,” Rudolph explained. “That’s kind of the backyard player that I am. So I’m not going to be gun shy at all. If anything, I’ll be seeking it out, contact, earlier in the game to get the rust back and know what it feels like to get hit.”
The Steelers’ Monday night match-up
While it’s never easy to come back from injury, Mason Rudolph has an excellent opportunity to ease into NFL action tonight against the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins defense has struggled this season, making this a comfortable match-up for Rudolph. Miami has the second-fewest sacks in the entire NFL, allowing the quarterback to stand in the pocket and regain his rhythm. Expect the Steelers to keep things simple at first, feeding James Connor and Benny Snell, Jr. while sprinkling in some short passes. In a game like this, which they should comfortably win, there’s no reason to have Rudolph do anything too dramatic.