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Film Study: How Mason Rudolph Will Fit in the Steelers’ Offense

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Mason Rudolph finds himself in an ideal situation with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has no pressure to start right away, he can learn from one of the best quarterbacks in the game and will be a part of one of the best offenses in the AFC. Although any transition from college to the pros is difficult, especially for quarterbacks, Rudolph will be working in an offense that should ease the change because of its similarities to what he did in college. Here are three parts of the Steelers’ offense that Rudolph will pick up right away.

Tempo

Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner was one of college football’s first spread pioneers, using an early version of the spread offense at Memphis from 2001-2006. Fichtner incorporated the no-huddle during his time with the Tigers, and his offenses were able to put up prolific numbers while featuring future pros Danny Wimprine and DeAngelo Williams. The no-huddle is something that Pittsburgh has flirted with for the past couple of seasons, with Ben Roethlisberger often calling for more of it and Fichtner holding back, but it’s in their arsenal of weapons they can use. And it appears that Rudolph is already prepared for that aspect of the offense.

“We have a lot of no-huddle stuff with our offense where there’s a lot put on the quarterback,” Rudolph said in a recent interview. “I have a whole notebook full of different no-huddle calls, no-huddle ideas that I saw Ben use or that I came up after watching something from the practice field.”

College-Influenced Concepts/RPOs

The college game has continued to have a larger influence in professional offenses, and Pittsburgh is no different. The Steelers started to incorporate college concepts when Todd Haley came on board as offensive coordinator in 2012 and Fichtner will likely keep them in 2018. Run-pass options were a significant part of the offense in 2017, which has similarities with what Rudolph ran with the Cowboys.

Pittsburgh will frequently tag their run plays with some type of now screen or two-man concept:

But they also use more complex concepts. Here’s a run-pass option that Pittsburgh has used for a number of years now. In it, Roethlisberger has the option to hand it off on the dart concept:

Or throw the stick concept to the trips side:

This is a common college play and actually became popular after then-offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen installed it at OSU in 2010.

They’ll also use screens in their quick game and tag the backside, similar to an RPO. They’re easy ways to get the ball into the hands of receivers:

And the quarterback can throw to the backside against certain looks.

Deep Throws

The final thing that Pittsburgh does really well is take deep shots. The Steelers run about six to eight “shot” plays per game, which are deep passing concepts, usually off a hard run action or with max protection. They use these in tandem with their power run game.

The Steelers also utilize their alerts, or “peek” routes, within their route concepts quite often. Ben Roethlisberger is similar to Mason Rudolph in the frequency that he throws the deep routes on concepts. Rudolph did this all the time, locking onto a target before the snap with the knowledge that the route is against a favorable coverage. Watch how Roethlisberger identifies  cover 1, looks off the safety and hits the deep route with his receiver one-on-one.

Rudolph has quite a bit of developing to do in order to be ready to play in the NFL. But he’s in a premier organization with Pittsburgh, an ideal backup situation, and will learn an offense that adequately fits his strengths.

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