No. 4: Quarterback Mason Rudolph
Relatively unknown commodities can be dangerous. And that’s what Mason Rudolph is right now, getting his first start at the NFL level this Sunday.
Rudolph is being groomed as Ben Roethlisberger’s heir apparent. If anyone was doubting such, the Steelers’ trade for former Miami Dolphins defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick — using Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in 2020 — is an indication the team is happy with its quarterback situation for now and into the future.
Earlier this preseason, the former Oklahoma State signal-caller managed a solid 113.3 passer rating with four touchdowns against one interception. Preseason narratives, yes. But it’s something to consider.
So is Rudolph’s 2018 scouting report from NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, which stated:
"Rudolph is more of a downfield, play-action passer than a quarterback who can win with precision and arm strength. He’s a capable field reader who has the ability to operate with timing which will be important since his arm can be dull at times."
On the surface, this looks like a bonus. Especially considering the 49ers have been excellent against the run over the first two weeks, allowing a combined 3.2 rush yards per carry — good for seventh best in the league.
But the Steelers have one of the best offensive lines in the league, ranking third overall, according to Pro Football Focus.
This group should be able to protect Rudolph, while also opening up chances for the guy who’ll make those play-action passes work better, running back James Conner.