Rudolph placed on IR with shoulder injury


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Mason Rudolph. – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Rudolph won't save Christmas this year — Mason Rudolph, that is.

Tuesday, the Steelers announced they placed Rudolph on the reserve/injured list following a shoulder injury sustained during the team's 16-10 loss to the Jets in Week 16, promoting center J.C. Hassenauer to the 53-man active roster in his place.

In that game, Rudolph took over for a struggling Devlin 'Duck' Hodges, completing 70 percent of his passes (14 for 20) for 129 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions in relief. The offense scored all 10 of its points behind Rudolph, but his comeback story came crashing to an end on this play late in the third quarter:

Rudolph actually stayed in the game to finish after taking that hit to finish the drive, but he was replaced by Hodges on the team's next possession. Hodges, then, could not complete the comeback.

After the game, Rudolph was in obvious pain in the away locker room in East Rutherford, N.J., needing assistance changing his clothes, per our Steelers beat writer Dale Lolley. Our Dejan Kovacevic, also on the scene, noted it'd be a stretch to expect Rudolph to be able to go for the team's Week 17 showdown vs. the Ravens in Baltimore.

Now we know why:

This season, Rudolph appeared in 10 games, going 5-3 as a starter. In all, he completed 62.2 percent (176 for 283) of his passes for 1,765 yards and 13 touchdowns against nine interceptions, a passer rating of 82.0.

Rudolph snagged the starting role after Ben Roethlisberger went down with a season-ending elbow injury midway through the team's Week 2 contest vs. the Seahawks. He won his first NFL game as a starter in Week 4, a 27-3 blowout of the Bengals at Heinz Field.

Then, he was brutally knocked out by Earl Thomas in a Week 5 loss to the Ravens, causing him to miss the team's next game against the Chargers in Carson, Calif. Hodges started that game and won, but Rudolph returned as the starter in Week 8 against the Dolphins, winning three straight games before losing the Browns in a now-infamous clash between the division rivals.

After the melee in Cleveland, Rudolph started against the Bengals but faltered, going 8 for 16 for 85 yards and a pick before being replaced by Hodges. From there, Hodges led to Steelers to a victory and maintained the starting role for the remainder of the season.


Obviously, this is the right move from the Steelers, giving the timing of Rudolph's injury, but the bigger question here is this: What exactly do the Steelers have in Rudolph?

The unfortunate part of Rudolph's season is that he showed improvement back in Week 5 against the Ravens before being knocked out, then he seemed unable to regain the confidence he once had upon returning. I thought the switch to Hodges was 100 percent the correct move ... until Week 16 against the Jets.

Rudolph took over in that one, and the offense found something. He was making quick reads and trusting his arm, which has resulted in success for him this year. There's no doubt his ceiling is higher than Hodges' as an NFL quarterback, and he began to show why in that loss.

And now this.

It's a disappointing corkscrew in Rudolph's already-rollercoaster season, but it's yet another learning opportunity for him moving forward.

Personally, I'm not giving up on Rudolph just yet. He deserves yet another chance before that call can be made.

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