Mason Rudolph stood on the sideline and watched helplessly as the Steelers lost, 17-10, Sunday night to the Bills.
The second-year quarterback remains ready to come back in and help the Steelers (8-6) to a playoff spot. And if Devlin Hodges, who threw four interceptions in the loss to the Bills, continues to falter, that could happen sooner rather than later.
With the Steelers needing a win Sunday against the Jets (5-9) at MetLife Stadium, even a slow start by Hodges could mean Rudolph could be back at quarterback. That was, after all, the scenario that saw Hodges replace Rudolph just after halftime Nov. 24 in a win at Cincinnati.
Rudolph, who has led the Steelers to a 5-3 record in his starts in place of injured Ben Roethlisberger, threw four interceptions in a loss at Cleveland Nov. 14. Then, he played an ineffective first half against the Bengals, leading Mike Tomlin to replace him with Hodges.
With Hodges now coming off a four-interception game, Tomlin might be ready to go back to the 2018 third-round draft pick over the undrafted rookie out of Samford.
Rudolph would welcome the opportunity, even if he isn't lobbying openly for it.
"Of course. We’re all competitors and we all love to play the game," Rudolph told me Monday. "When it gets taken away, it’s hard. You don’t know what it’s like until it’s gone."
Rudolph played well in his first seven games after replacing Roethlisberger at halftime of a Week 2 loss to the Seahawks. In seven games, six of them starts, the former Oklahoma State star completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 1,330 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. He posted a passer rating of 93.0.
But the Steelers fell behind in the 21-7 loss at Cleveland and Rudolph was intercepted four times, then got into a brawl with Browns defensive end Myles Garrett at the end of the game. Later, Garrett accused Rudolph of using a racial slur, something Rudolph vehemently denied and the league said was unfounded.